Lisbon: Where Next?

5 10 2009

First Reaction:
A delay to Lisbon now depends on the timing of decisions by Poland, the Czech Republic and Britain. A mismatch of timing will allow the Treaty to be passed much earlier. President Klaus should declare that he will delay a decision until after the UK General Election, when Britain’s final verdict will be clearer. Yes, it has been signed by the Labour Government. But it is not final until the Czechs say yes. And that ambiguity will allow David Cameron to effect a change of mind. Of course, I am assuming that Klaus, Kaczynski and Cameron can demonstrate some political courage in the face of enormous pressure from the EU core and a likely legal crisis should they stand up to it. Political courage in the heat of an EU crisis. Now, there’s an idea!


Guide to Irish Media for Foreign Observers of Irish Vote

2 10 2009

If you are going to rely on Irish media outlets, it would be useful to know their political color before accepting what they say with blind faith. So, here’s a quick tour:

RTE, Radio Telefis Eireann: public broadcaster. Like BBC but has advert funding alongside viewing tax (license). Nominally neutral but ideologically closest to Labour Party in practice. Unrelentingly hostile to current Irish Government.

Irish Times: Prestige paper of record, like New York Times. Nominally “liberal” – actually leftist in ideological orientation. Somewhat like Guardian in UK, which it copies. However, on EU, militantly pro-Lisbon and very hostile to most vocal anti-Communists and new conservatives in Eastern Europe.

Irish Independent: conservative on economics or law and order, liberal, though not radical, on social poilicy. Pro-Lisbon but offers more space to critics than Irish Times. Hostile to Fianna Fail, more sympathetic to Fine Gael. Style is less elitist than Irish Times, slightly tabloid.

Irish Examiner: nominally representative of a different voice from Cork and the South. In practice, apes values and concerns of the Irish Times. Liberal/left.

Newstalk: Some very professional broadcasting here, esp. by Claire Byrne in morning. But many presenters are either RTE or Irish Times old hands. Result: Newstalk is less politically diverse than it could have been.

Slow Turnout

2 10 2009

A relatively low turnout was the picture in rural regions this afternoon. However, some experts predict a surge as people get home from work in the evening. Polling ends at 2200 Irish Summer Time, 2100 UTC.

So, You Are a Fascist, Then?

1 10 2009

The Charter on Fundamental Rights looks like a relatively innocuous document. However, there are several causes for concern.

Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Posts

1 10 2009

These have been deferred until later this evening (Thursday)


30 09 2009

CFSP– Eastwesteurope Analysis (September 30, 2009)  [PDF file]
A late exchange that highlighted the poor quality of the debate on both sides of this year’s Lisbon 2 campaign.

Coming Up …

30 09 2009

Postings on the rights charter, an important part of the Lisbon process that has not been subjected to any really critical academic or journalistic scrutiny in the Irish debate.

which Poses the Greater Threat…. NATO or the EU? Not What You Think

30 09 2009

Does the EU need a defense policy?

Most of the humanitarian and peacekeeping operations conducted so far worked fine under Nice. Indeed, even more could be done without these treaties.

NATO is the major European defense and security institution. Neither rivalry nor duplication are necessary and both could be a by-product of any European defense identity. Rejecting Lisbon will stall that trend.

But, surely, a small number of EU states could still proceed with such a defense policy?
Arguably, they would have to do this outside the EU framework. They could revive the WEU or some such body. The creation of more European foreign policy and defense institutions will ultimately put enormous moral and political pressure on Ireland to show more “solidarity.” We must be full members. We cannot always take without giving. Once again, it’s not a matter of what happens the day after Lisbon but rather of the medium and long-term consequences of the Treaties. As argued elsewhere on this site, we may or may not contribute to NATO;’s outreach programs. There is no obligation because we have no membership history. Besides, NATO has learned to live with a neutral Ireland. But, with the EU, there is a greater demand on our solidarity. Thus, the institutionalization of European defense and foreign policy processes, neither of which are really necessary even in Europe’s own interest, poses a much greater danger to Ireland’s statehood, foreign policy independence and neutrality in the long run.

The Consequences of Reasserting Our Position: An Alternative View

30 09 2009

Continued from previous post ….

But, hold on. Didn’t many of these obligations exist already, even under previous treaties?

Yes, they did. And we haven’t thought too much about them or where they are leading. But this document institutionalizes these arrangements to a greater extent. Public endorsement would be taken as a signal that they are now really beyond negotiation or revision. Yet, the whole trend is toward the development of a coordinated and conformist EU foreign policy that will eventually take primacy over national foreign policies. The word EVENTUALLY is important. Lisbon 2 may not be the final nail – but it is very close to it. It creates all the necessary ingredients for a slippery slope, even if the politicians decide to delay the final push until later. It builds the machinery for a proto-state but tells us that the switch is still in the OFF position.
Do we have our confrontation with Europe now? Or do we have it the next time around? The pressure on our sovereignty is just not going away. Agreeing to Lisbon 2 merely delays the ultimate reckoning but, in the meantime, gives the politicians time to build more of the framework and put their recalcitrant publics at a disadvantage for the final heave.

Rejecting Lisbon 2 will reopen the Europe-wide debate, the one outcome the current governments truly dread. Lisbon 1 could not do that. With the experience of Nice 1 and 2, and another bite at the cherry in the offing, Lisbon 1 was interpreted as a bluff. That impression was reinforced by the lack of leadership from Irish politicians who refused to take the public verdict seriously. Rather than underlining the seriousness of intent among the electorate, they hurried to explain away the vote and reassure Brussels that the public would be brought around. It is no wonder there was only a muted reaction on the Continent. But a rejection of Lisbon 2 would force a reopening of the debate. Ireland might be isolated by a count of current governments. But it has time on its hands. Opposition parties that threaten those now in power in many EU states would have more cause to take a different line if they and their restless (and disenfranchised) publics viewed such a clear and audacious act of defiance in Ireland.

The Limits of Unanimity: Treaty Texts and Political Realities in CFSP

30 09 2009

As for the unanimity rule on general foreign policy, the Council can agree to adopt different procedures, including qualified majority voting, albeit triggered unanimously (Art 31 CTEU). Irish governments may feel obligated …. that word again … so a form of moral and political pressure will compel them to avoid being in a minority of one scenario. Moreover, even when abstaining, there is wording in the Treaty that encourages (not compels, but encourages) them to agree to act in a manner not incompatible with the measures they refused to support in the open. There is a lot about “solidarity” – again, a coercive normative framework for putting pressure on dissenters. This framework is as much about political coercion as about legalities.

There is continuing discussion of Article 48. The article requires national constitutional procedures (referenda in Ireland) for instances of both kinds of Treaty amendment. Yet, there is still an option for a Council decision to apply QMV to new areas within the general competences already granted to the Union. That formulation remains extremely slippery and open to abuse by politicians and politically-biased judges. Yes campaigners (as here – Michael McLoughlin’s well-constructed – even if misguided YES site), have generally glossed over the potential for mischief arising from the ambiguities in articles 31 and 48. Measuring the weight and significance of foreign policy issues that should require QMV and those that should not is a very complex matter. Similarly, the boundaries between policy and implementation measures are easily fudged.

States are allowed to cite national interest as a reason for rejecting QMV decision-making. But, in this case, there is an effort on the part of the Council and the head of CFSP to “resolve” the difference, another opportunity for moral and political coercion.