From Socialist Voice, January 2008

The Lisbon Treaty: A further erosion of democracy

The campaign for a No vote on the Lisbon Treaty or renamed EU constitution (90 per cent the same as the rejected constitution) continues to gather pace.
    The struggle for a No vote will be one of David-and-Goliath proportions. The Irish establishment are pulling out all the stops to secure a Yes vote, even enlisting the support of the French fascist Le Pen, to make it appear that he represents the No campaigners. Those promoting the Treaty from the social-democratic position are to the fore in attempting to present opponents as narrow nationalist or fascist.
    The Government plans to hold more than forty meetings of parliamentarians around the country to “inform” the public of the contents of the treaty, while the Forum on Europe plans to hold sixty “information meetings.” We will be subjected to a massive barrage of supposedly objective information.
    This is the means by which the Government hopes to use public money to promote one side and to circumvent previous High Court and Supreme Court decisions about the use of public money to influence the outcome in a particular way.
    The two main establishment parties have stated that they intend to spend nearly €2 million in their campaigns. The Irish elite have been attempting to set the terms and the parameters of the debate, in the hope of preventing a wider discussion on its content.
•They will present those opposed to the Treaty as far-leftists or as fascists— people and organisations that no reasonable or sensible person could associate with.
•They will try to control the debate around the mantra that “Europe” has been good for us and that there is no need to discuss the contents.
•They will claim that it is purely a “reform” treaty, with nothing new.
•They will claim that it is not the constitution that was rejected by the French and Dutch voters.
•The Irish Times has been actively promoting and encouraging Jean-Marie Le Pen to visit Ireland.
•They are attempting to frighten the voters with dire warnings of the consequences of a No vote.
    This treaty will not be defeated by a narrow “leftist” opportunist posturing but by presenting the case against the treaty from a broad democratic viewpoint. We need to pull together broad democratic opinion into a position of opposition. If the anti-treaty forces fall for the political traps set by the establishment and start attacking other No forces, we will lose before we can get started.
    The supporters of the treaty can be taken on and defeated by exposing the false statements, distortions and lies they are peddling with regard to its content.
    We need to present and win the arguments in relation to
•a further significant transfer to the European Union of sovereignty over a wide range of areas affecting Irish people;
•sixty-eight new areas that would be decided by majority votes;
•the loss of a Commissioner;
•the continued and growing concentration of power in the hands of the Commission;
•the further weakening of national governments and thereby of democratic accountability;
•the granting of autonomy to the European Commission, accountable only to itself, further eroding democratic control;
•the continued shift away from a union of equals (if it ever was) to one where growing power lies with the big member-states by the use of majority or qualified voting;
•the continued drive to build a centralised superstate with is own military-industrial complex and army;
•the fact that the European Union would become a legal entity in its own right, superior to its member-states, able to negotiate international treaties and agreements in its own name, which it is not able to do now.
    We would lose control over foreign policy, as this would be decided by qualified majority voting rather than unanimity.
    This would mean that at forums such as the United Nations, if the European Union adopted a position it would be binding on member-states and they would have to vote for that position.
    We could have the British and French governments voting on our behalf in the Security Council; or the European Union itself could seek a seat on the Security Council. And the countries of the majority world would be faced with a formidable imperial bloc. The European Union would have its own “high representative” for foreign policy; it would be possible to have its own diplomatic representatives if it so wished.
    The treaty would be a self-amending treaty in specific areas. It would further consolidate the neo-liberal economic dogma within the European Union. It affirms the priority and superiority of the market.
    This is not a complete list of the areas that this treaty would affect or change but only some of the most significant ones.
    One of the areas where we need to build resistance is within the trade union movement, which is now feeling the impact that the Services Directive is having on its members’ jobs and living standards. Elements of the leadership of the trade union movement have been withholding open support for the treaty as a bargaining lever with the Government so as to get legislation relating to agency workers.
    The trade union leadership supported the Maastricht Treaty, the Single European Act and the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties without question, taking the word of the various Governments on the content and the consequences of adopting them in blind faith. That unquestioning position and support meant that they took their eye off the ball, and they are now paying the price.
    Trade unionists, like many others, made judgements based on who else was opposing the treaties rather than looking seriously at their content and the possible consequences for them.
    As more and more power is ceded to Brussels we will have less and less opportunity of bringing about change here at home. As the European monopolies, bankers and big corporations concentrate their power and control in and through the Commission, Irish workers must fight for a weakening of its power and its controlling influence.

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