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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Why can't the Gov be this candid about Lisbon?

Lib Dem MEP Andrew Duff has candidly told the Economist: “Whenever I am in a national parliament, I have the impression they are rather demoralised, because powers are transferring to the European Union level.”

Good observation. In fact, Andrew Duff is always pretty honest about the slow movement of powers from national to EU level. The only difference is, that while he welcomes this, we think it dilutes democracy and results in policies which aren't necessarily good.

Some of his recent musings make for fascinating reading. Here is a staunchly integrationist British politician who is willing to stand up and defend his views without apology. In the opening paragraphs of his new book, "Saving the European Union, the Logic of the Lisbon Treaty", for instance, he describes himself as a "militant federalist."

Some of the analysis from the book is worth repeating here. There is too much for one blog post, so we will come back to it again before too long. Andrew was one of the members of the Convention on the Future of Europe, which drew up the EU Constitution, later renamed the Lisbon Treaty.

Some highlights:

  • Andrew describes the Lisbon Treaty as "The latest attempt to take a very important qualitative step forward towards a more federal union." (page 6)

  • On the difference between the Lisbon Treaty and the EU Constitution, he says: "In some ways, the Lisbon exercise was merely an obscurantist one, undertaken deliberately to allow France, the Netherlands and the UK to escape from their previous hubristic pledges to hold referendums. But the basic reforms survived. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, although excised from the treaty itself, was given the full force of primary law of the Union. The blue flag with the twelve gold stars and Beethoven's Ode to Joy are still to be used to symbolise the Union. And the High Representative keeps all the powers and responsibilities of the soi-disant Foreign Minister." (page 9)

  • "The Lisbon Treaty still represents a historic step forward for European unification at least on a par with the Treaty of Maastricht". (page 10)

  • "The imperative of a common foreign and security policy is without limitation and may well lead to common defence." (page 36)

  • "Crucially, [the European] Parliament gains the right under the treaty to initiate in future revision of the treaty itself. That is a highly significant step forward towards the constitutionalisation of the European Union, ending as it would the states' monopoly over treaty change." (page 44)

  • "Many significant items move from unanimity to QMV, including the whole of justice and interior affairs." (page 48)

  • "The 2004 constitutional treaty was already an amended version of the 2003 constitution drafted by the Convention of Valery Giscard d'Estaing. The Lisbon treaty was a further modification of what is basically the same text." (page 145)

  • On the reaction of Europe's leaders to the Irish 'no' vote: "It was asking the impossible of Ireland's partners for them to respect the outcome". (page 147)

But perhaps most importantly of all, given the upcoming EU summit and the stitch-up there will be to con Irish voters into thinking they will be voting on a different text a second time around, Andrew confirms that the best Ireland can hope for is a bunch of non legally-binding political promises from the rest of the EU leaders that somehow assuage their fears about the treaty.

He says:

"an Irish protocol bound as an afterthought to the Lisbon treaty itself would trigger a new intergovernmental conference in the course of 2009 (risking a wider renegotiation) followed by national ratification, yet again, in all twenty-seven member states. The only practical option is that a pre-cooked protocol is added at some unspecified future date to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union once Lisbon is safely in force. The opportunity to do this might still be several years ahead. In the meanwhile, Ireland will be asked to take it on trust that such a manoeuvre will eventually take place." (page 168)

We will return to this very soon.

1 comment:

Ralf Grahn said...

I have no doubt that you enjoy Duff's assessments and that you will return to them repeatedly.

Some of his juicier statements about the Lisbon Treaty, for instance, are exaggerated, although his main thrust is sound and profoundly democratic.

But the most relevant question seems to be what the next UK government is going to do in Europe, and what the EU should do about Britain.