Voting until they get it right in the European Union.
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Well, kind of. Last December Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin stated that “we will not be asking people to vote on the same proposition.” But what Dublin received was the promise of future action, not present amendments. Irish Socialist MEP Joe Higgins acknowledged: the guarantee process is “an elaborate charade. The so-called guarantees are simply designed to throw dust in the eyes of ordinary people in Ireland to give them the impression that something fundamental has been changed in the Lisbon Treaty,” thereby making people think they will be voting on a different document when “It is exactly the same text, word by word, not even a comma has been changed.”
Similarly, explains Open Europe’s Lorraine Mullally: “Despite lengthy negotiations and lots of superficial statements about ‘respecting’ the Irish ‘no’ vote, not a single comma has changed — if there were any changes at all to the Treaty, then all the other member states would have to re-ratify it. None of the statements made [at the EU summit] are binding in EU law. But even if they were, they do nothing to address Irish concerns.”
Treaty advocates argue otherwise, of course. Given its difficulty in selling the treaty, the Irish government is attempting to turn the treaty referendum into a vote on membership in the EU. Jim O’Hara, CEO of Intel Ireland, added: “People don’t understand the economic catastrophe that could unfold if we don’t get a ‘Yes’ vote.” But few critics of Lisbon want to leave the EU. Since the EU appears to be working as is, they simply see no reason to expand the EU’s authority.
The betting is that Lisbon will carry the second time around. (If it doesn’t, threatened one German Socialist MEP, Ireland will face “isolation” and “second class” status.) Still, nothing is guaranteed. British MEP Daniel Hannan writes of an Irish friend who told him: “we didn’t fight off the might of the British Empire just so as to be bossed about by the Belgians.”
Moreover, the Czech and Polish presidents have to yet to sign off on the agreement and if the Tories win next year’s election in Britain, they might use a future treaty as an opportunity to demand their own concessions, à la the Irish. And if the Conservatives come to power — which is as certain as anything in politics — before the Lisbon process is completed, they are likely to reverse the Labour government’s ratification.
Only the Europeans can decide on the EU’s future. Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian of “the essential grandeur of this project we call the European Union, where nations born in so much blood work together freely in a commonwealth of democracies.” He is right, but his argument actually works against the Lisbon Treaty, or at least the current ratification process, which excludes the people forced to live under the resulting government. Declares Roger Cole: “This referendum is not an Irish battle. It is a European battle fought on Irish soil, a battle between the peoples of Europe that support democracy and the elite of Europe that want an empire.”
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