Saturday, June 07, 2008

Independence and Democracy

So the Lisbon referendum is approaching really fast, and the "No" side seem to be gaining strength yay! So, why do I think this is good? Last time I posted about the neo-liberal economic direction that the EU is taking and why this is not in the interests of the ordinary people of either Ireland or the rest of Europe; and how the ruling political elite ("the main parties") try to obfuscate and oversimplify the arguments. Finally it seems that people are beginning to realise that if they at least do not understand the whole Lisbon treaty there is enough debate for them to realise that indeed they do not understand it adequately and furthermore that there is a lot at stake. In such circumstances the only logical and intelligent choice one can be expected to make is to vote no.

A major issue of the Lisbon treaty, and indeed of the EU in general, is the immense lack of democracy that is involved. Sinn Fein have put up rather simplistic posters about about people dying for our freedom and that we shouldn't vote it away. Now, I don't support or vote for Sinn Fein at all, but they do have a point about how a yes vote amounts to a voting away of some of our freedoms.

The EU is executive run. This means that the directly elected representative, i.e. the parliament has very little say in how the EU is run. The EU parliament does not elect its executive. Also, the parliament does not even get to propose and decide on legislation by itself. A group of MEPs cannot simply draft a law on minimum standards on health care or workers rights that could be required throughout the EU in a manner that one might expect a national parliament to do. Instead the unelected EU commission submits a proposal to parliament and then the most complicated of procedures are put in place to effectively shunt decision-making off in to a sphere of back-door horsetrading.

The Yes campaign have made the argument about the expanded role for national parliaments in the Lisbon treaty and how this will make Europe more democratic. Let's look at this more closely. There are provisions for national parliaments to be notified of EU impending legislation and then have an eight week window to consider the matter. Great, but can only comment on whether the draft laws breach the 'principle of subsidiarity', i.e. does the proposed legislation delve into areas that are properly the preserve of national or local governments? National parliaments could not veto on anything that the EU claims exclusive competence over such as directive to "open the market" for privatization of water, electricity, post offices et cetera.

In the unlikely event that tone third of EU parliaments all decide in an eight week period to object, Brussels will have to 'review' their draft and then decide either to 'maintain, amend or withdraw' the draft. In the even more unlikely event that half of all parliaments come to the same opinion in the eight week period, Brussels will have to reconsider and if they go ahead, they must get at least 45% of the EU council or parliament to agree that their legislation is not in breach of the principle of subsidiarity. Like that would be difficult for them!!!!!

The Lisbon treaty would not give the EU complete control over any new areas but would give the EU 'joint competence' in areas such as energy and public health. Now decisions in these areas and others will be heavily influence by the ideology of the political elite in Europe. Not that the Irish track record on health is anything to be proud of, but surely we should not be giving over areas that we currently have control over.

Another example is taxation. On a radio show recently, it was proposed that one way to deal with the increasing price of petrol might be to reduce the tax that is applied. The point was made that this would be very difficult as there is a myriad of rules governing how countries tax. Seriously if we as an independent country cannot vary the VAT on petrol without the approval of EU bureaucrats, are we really an independent country? It is estimated that about 80% of the legislation adopted by national parliaments are nothing but adaptations of EU laws.

We are being asked to further erode what little democracy we have left to "simplify decision making" or "increase efficiency" and that we will be paralysed if this referendum does not pass. Rubbish, the EU is not paralysed now and will continue to function it does now, if the referendum is not passed.

Voting no is not a vote "against Europe". It is about saying "No" to the direction that the EU is moving in now, notwithstanding the obvious benefits that membership of the EU has had for Ireland. The Yes campaign are asking us to believe that corporate interests, as represented by the main parties, are more "pro-European". If we are expected to be more "pro-European" isn't it reasonable to ask if this will bring us more democracy or less?

Also, will the treaty give us more rights? The Yes campaign, especially Labour speak of the 'charter of fundamental rights.' A look at the actual text of the treaty reveals the following:

" the provisions of the Charter do not extend in any way the competencies of the Union as defined by the Treaties"
"rights, freedoms and principles in the Charter will be interpreted in accordance with the general provision of Title VII of the Charter",
which explicitly states that
"The Charter does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union or establish any new power or task for the Union, or modify the powers and tasks defined in the Treaties."

In other words, the people of Europe get no extra rights. The much lauded Charter is barely worth the paper it is written on.

Ok guys, gotta go, this post is getting very long, although nowhere near as long as the treaty itself. Hopefully this will go some way to convincing you readers to vote NO to this terrible treaty on the 12th.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry plas- I'm catching up on my 49£ homework but your post is too long for me to read right now. I'll come back.