Lisbon 2 and Foreign Policy: Ambiguities and Trap Doors

30 09 2009

Isn’t Irish foreign and defense policy protected by the unanimity rule and guarantees over defense and neutrality issues?

To some extent, yes. But there is still a slippery slope scenario that could flow from Lisbon.

Common foreign policy decisions require unanimity, as at present. But suppose an Irish government felt compelled to abandon some control over foreign policy issues?

What government would want to do that?
Just consider: the major Dail parties all wanted to adopt Lisbon 1. If there was no option for a referendum, they would have been all too pleased to sign up there and then. They feared being isolated. They felt guilty over taking EU money and giving nothing back in return. They felt obligated. Under such pressure, with no referendum option, they would have adopted Lisbon a year ago. The referendum requirement matters.

So it does. And, any decisions with defense implications must go back to domestic constitutional resolution – in Ireland’s case, a referendum. So, Irish neutrality policy is protected by guarantees and by the Treaty provision that says we must opt into any more advanced defense arrangements.

Very true. Talk of conscription tomorrow was obviously an exaggeration. But …

But?

We are protected against changes with “defense” implications. But foreign policy is much broader than defense. And security policy itself is a blurred area. Security policy can range from economic and environmental security to military matters and counter-terrorism. The overtly miltary issues are protected but what happens on the boundary line? There is scope for ambiguity. Where ambiguity causes conflict, the matter will be resolved in the European Council (politicians, not the public) or by judges.

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