From Socialist Voice, September 2009

The second referendum:
a democratic and constitutional outrage

In June 2008, 862,415 people voted to reject an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland that would make EU law superior to Irish law in the areas set out in the Lisbon Treaty. The holding of a second referendum on the same treaty shows contempt for the democratic will of all Irish people, irrespective of how they voted in Lisbon 1.
     It is a cynical exercise. Not a comma of the Lisbon Treaty is changed for Lisbon 2. It is still the constitution of a supranational federal state. It would turn Ireland, and the other member-states, into regions or provinces of this federation. It would make us citizens of this new federal European Union, owing duties of obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority. The rights and duties of this “additional” citizenship would ultimately be decided by the European Court of Justice; it would therefore fall to the ECJ to apply the rights set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
     The vast majority of EU laws would still be decided by civil servants behind closed doors under the Commission and Council, instead of being adopted by elected representatives of peoples.

The democratic void

The non-elected Commission would still retain its monopoly on proposing all EU laws, instead of being decided by elected representatives in national parliaments or directly by voters.
     Ireland and other member-states would lose their right to propose and decide their own Commissioner. Instead, the Irish commissioner and other commissioners would be decided by the new Commission president, in whose appointment the big states would have a decisive say.

The “guarantees” that guarantee nothing

The Government contends that it got “guarantees” from the European Union that address Irish concerns. These guarantee nothing. If they changed even a comma, the Lisbon Treaty would become a different treaty and would have to be ratified again by the parliaments of the twenty-seven EU member states.
     If the treaty comes into force it will be interpreted by the EU Court of Justice. This would be on the basis of the content of the treaty and not of the “decision” and “solemn declaration” that pro-Lisbon hype tries to make out to be so significant.

Spoofing at the United Nations

These documents will not form any part of the Lisbon Treaty, they do not change it, and they are not legally binding as part of EU law. Formally registering the “decision” at the United Nations is intended to make it look more significant but does not make it capable of overriding EU law.
     A promise to negotiate a legally binding protocol to be attached to some future EU treaty in the future is just that: a promise.
     Once the treaty came into force, even if Ireland obtained a protocol in some future treaty it would still not free us from the obligations of Lisbon that the Government has signed up to and already accepted.

An outdated economic model

All twenty-seven EU members are in economic crisis. This crisis makes Lisbon’s model of a deregulated, privatised European Union seriously out of date. The Lisbon Treaty offers the same unregulated financial liberalisation that created the present crisis.
     Any efforts to end the speculative scourge in this country, or in other EU member-states, would come up against prohibitions and restrictions on capital movements and on rights of establishment.
     Ireland is experiencing a worse crisis than most because of the borrowing binge that was encouraged by the same unholy alliance of political parties that are now attempting to push through the Lisbon Treaty.

Who hopes to gain from the crisis?

The agreement on the morning of the first referendum count between the Government and the EU Commission to advocate a continuation of the ratification process by the other EU member-states, despite the clear Irish 53 to 47 per cent majority against the Lisbon Treaty, created a crisis of political legitimacy for the European Union.
     The Government is banking on a climate of fear because of the effects of fiscal and financial collapse, dragooning voters into bailing it out, and also bailing out the EU Commission and the prime ministers and presidents of the 26 other member-states.
     If this tactic was to succeed, generations would end up paying a political price every bit as harsh and long-lasting as the social burden created by the Government’s bail-out of the banks.

A less influential Ireland to confront the crisis

Furthermore, the Lisbon Treaty’s provision to give the big EU states from 50 to 100 per cent more voting power in the European Union, while cutting Ireland’s voting weight by half, would be economically disastrous for us.
     When Ireland joined the European Community in 1973, Germany, France, Italy and Britain had 3.3 times more votes than Ireland. Under the Lisbon Treaty, Germany would have 20 times more votes than Ireland, and Britain, France and Italy would have 15 times more. How can having half as much influence in the European Union as Ireland has today help fight unemployment and resolve the economic crisis in the interests of Irish workers, farmers, and businesses?

Workers’ rights

The Lisbon Treaty raises issues of great importance for trade unionists and workers throughout the European Union. This is reflected in the fact that the overwhelming majority of workers who voted in the June 2008 referendum voted against ratification.
     In particular, the treaty would subordinate workers’ trade union rights to the EU internal market by copperfastening the Laval, Viking, Rüffert and Luxembourg judgements of the EU Court of Justice. The so-called “solemn declaration on workers’ rights” does not provide a legal remedy to the anti-worker thrust of these judgements and is nothing more than a con to deceive enough workers into reversing their opposition to the treaty.
     The Laval judgement played a role in Ireland in a recent case taken by employers to break a registered employment agreement in the electrical contracting industry. The Labour Court stated: “. . . It seems reasonably if not absolutely clear to the Court that in the absence of a Registered Employment Agreement contractors from other Member States could exercise their freedom to provide services in this jurisdiction under the EC Treaty at the same rates and conditions of employment as apply in their country of origin. Depending on the country of origin this could seriously undermine the competitive position of Irish contractors.”—And workers!

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