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.

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 …


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.


28 09 2009

East-West-Europe blog will be offering extensive analysis and discussion of the Lisbon 2 Referendum in Ireland, starting on Tuesday, September 30, and culminating at the Referendum Count this coming weekend.
We will be examining the economic, social policy, constitutional, party-political and foreign policy consequences of the proposed Treaty ratification, as well as at the arguments marshalled by the opposing sides in the debate. So do make sure to check back as this historic week unfolds. Let us know what you think by clicking on a story heading or COMMENTS and adding a comment of your own.