EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

I just read your article ‘Support for Lisbon Treaty in Ireland plunges‘ [1] and that reminded me again of G. Orwell’s masterpiece Animal Farm – a truly remarkable novel about a society living up to seven commandments, the seventh of which is “All animals are equal” [2]. Eventually, as the years passed by and the society “evolved”, the seven commandments were replaced by one commandment only: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

The negative votes in the 2005 referenda on the “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe” in France and the Netherlands drove the final nail into the European Constitution’s coffin. In an attempt to circumvent the will of Europeans, who clearly stated they were against closer integration and against more powers conferred to the Brussels Eurocrats, the European Council “return[ed] to the traditional method of changing the existing Treaties” [3] by developing the “Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community” [4] (alias the Lisbon Treaty).

There is no doubt that the “new” Lisbon Treaty, although different in appearance, is the disguised European Constitution (as the saying goes, “Different tree – same wood”). The fact is acknowledged by many heads of member states, amongst which German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has said “the substance of the Constitution is preserved. That is a fact” [5] (for more statements see [6], [7]).

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the chairman of the European Convention (also known as the Convention on the Future of Europe) which drafted the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe [8], has said that the EU treaty is simply the old constitution reborn [9]. Moreover, Mr. Giscard d’Estaing even said in an interview for the Bulgarian media that “the Constitution was a readable treaty. The Treaty of Lisbon disguised it and became unreadable. It can be used rather to put to sleep but the main text is the same” [10].

However, when in 2008 Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a national referendum, the country was immediately put under pressure to revote the treaty on a new referendum [11], [12]. Amazingly, one of the major pressure factors is France – the very same country that four years ago rejected the very same treaty using the very same procedure!

This observation makes me wonder if really all member states are equal partners in the European Union or some member states are “more equal than others”.

Sincerely,

Svetoslav Apostolov

REFERENCES
[1] EurActiv.com. 2009. Support for Lisbon Treaty in Ireland plunges. [online]
URL: http://euractiv.com/en/future-eu/support-lisbon-treaty-ireland-plunges/article-185135 (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

[2] Orwell, G. 1945. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. Secker and Warburg, London, UK.
Available online: http://orwell.ru/library/novels/Animal_Farm/ (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

[3] European Communities. 2009. Fact Sheets on the European Union. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. Luxembourg. ISBN: 978-92-823-2469-1.
Available online:
http://bookshop.europa.eu/eubookshop/publicationDetails.action?pubuid=10061924&offset=0 (site last accessed on 05.06.2009).

[4] Conference of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States. 2007. Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. Official Journal of the European Union C 306, p. 1.
Available online:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOIndex.do?year=2007&serie=C&textfield2=306&Submit=Search&ihmlang=en (site last accessed on 21.01.2009).

[5] Waterfield, B. 2007. You’re stuck with Blair’s EU deal, says Portugal. Telegraph.co.uk. [online]
URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1555977/Youre-stuck-with-Blairs-EU-deal-says-Portugal.html (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

[6] Open Europe. 2008a. The Lisbon Treaty and the European Constitution: A side-by-side comparison. [online]
URL: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/#pol (site last accessed on 22.01.2009).

[7] Open Europe. 2008b. A guide to the constitutional treaty. 2nd edition. [online]
URL: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/#pol (site last accessed on 22.01.2009).

[8] European Convention. 2003. Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. [online]
URL: http://european-convention.eu.int/ (site last accessed on 04.09.09).

[9] Chapman, J. 2007. EU treaty is simply the old constitution reborn, says creator Giscard d’Estaing. Mail Online. [online]
URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-469118/EU-treaty-simply-old-constitution-reborn-says-creator-Giscard-dEstaing.html# (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

[10] Terziev, S. 2008. If you have entered the Europe club, abide by the rules. [Shtom ste vlezli v kluba “Evropa”, spazvaite pravilata.] Sega Issue 2984.
Available online: http://www.segabg.com/online/new/articlenew.asp?issueid=2984&sectionid=5&id=0001101 (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

[11] Bruno Waterfield, B. 2008. EU steps up pressure on Ireland to hold second Lisbon Treaty referendum. Telegraph.co.uk. [online]
URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/3173967/EU-steps-up-pressure-on-Ireland-to-hold-second-Lisbon-Treaty-referendum.html (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

[12] Independent. 2008. Treaty is our ‘only hope’ of retaining EU post. Independent.ie. [online]
URL: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/treaty-is-our-only-hope-of-retaining–eu-post-1549339.html (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

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Comments

  1. The background to the French vote needs to be taken into consideration – when that is done the vote was against the ruling party (i.e. President Chirac) not necessarily against the treaty (which most voters knew little about – it was enough that Chirac supported it). In the case of Ireland, a mis-information campaign caused the vote – funny how the cold winds of depression/recession seem to have caused an attidude change.

  2. Mr Apostolov’s rant omits some crucial facts:

    1. There were also two successful referenda on the constitutional treaty. Actually, if the votes from the four referenda are counted together there was a majority in favour of the treaty.

    2. As Mike Parr points out the French vote was about many things, the treaty actually not being the most important one (and many of those opposing the treaty actually opposed the 2004 enlargement which had nothing to do with the treaty and was anyway inrevocable). The no camp also had various groups, in particular the moderate left, which wanted a more ambitious treaty. Lumping them together with nationalists who reject the very concept of European integration is not acceptable.

    3. The Irish vote was about amending the Irish constitution or not. It is now well established that the Irish voters were largely clueless about the subject. Maybe it’s the right of voters to be ignorant, but it cannot be allowed that less than 0.5 percent of the European electorate decide the fate of the continent. That would be a perversion of democracy. If the Irish do not want the Lisbon Treaty, it should not apply to them. But this means that Ireland should leave the EU, not blackmail the rest of us. I personally strongly reject the idea that my life has to comply with the ideas of Irish bigots.

    4. The EU is a union of states, not a state. Therefore, these states make the rules. Direct democracy is (so far) not foreseen in the EU’s basic concept. One may regret that, but first the rules need changing before such concept can be implemented. Introducing some naive idea of direct democracy through a set of simplistic yes/no votes is not an improvement but a celebration of populism in its most primitive form. And are Europeans really prepared to face the might of 60 Million German voters?

    In my view a deeper analysis of the europhobic mindset is still lacking. For my own country I see a deep fear of the “other”. People struggle with the concept that decisions are taken jointly with “foreigners” in a “foreign” city, namely Brussels. Ultimately this mistrust is based on a false sense of superiority, ignorance and xenophobia.

  3. In reply to Mr. Grünebaum‘s comment I would like to point out that the biggest recent “perversion of democracy” (to use his own words) is the attempted circumvention of the will of the Europeans: first by ignoring their explicit will against a “closer Europe” expressed in the Constitutional Treaty referendum in 2005 and, second, by forcing (yes, I am not afraid to use this word!) the Irish people to repeat their referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon.

    The greatest “perversion of democracy”, however, is the conversion of a trade agreement (the European Economic Community renamed to the European Community and now commonly referred to as the European Union) that the people were asked if they want to join in the 50s, 60s and 70s into a USSR-like federal superstate regulating every aspect of the life of Europeans without giving them the chance to object to that conversion.
    I strongly believe that it is THE PEOPLE who should decide in what Europe they will live tomorrow, and not the Eurocrats or the national governments. Although the latter have been elected by the people, the Treaty of Lisbon had not been a part of the so-called “social contract” that was “signed” between the people and their government at the time of the election.

    Personally I feel that I was robbed of my democracy as I was not given the chance to say what future I want for me!

    I argue that Europe is not ready to become “the European USA”: unlike the United States of America at the time of their foundation, the culture of the various Member States is too different to allow for easy integration into a federal superstate: in Europe we speak more than 30 languages and have 3 major religions (Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism) that cannot come to terms with each other since ages and that still have a powerful influence in national politics in many Member States.

    And yes, many Europeans do not want to lose their national identities by being smelted into a federal superstate. But does this mean that they must be forced into it? Will this not be a perversion of democracy? And will such an act not trigger the Newton’s third law of physics, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”?

  4. Hi,
    In response to Ronald Grünebaum what can I say? I oppose his view and I am Irish. In his peanut sized brain, this makes me a bigot. I am very much pro Europe but very much anti Lisbon treaty. Its a shame this cretin cannot understand that there is a difference. Maybe he should get out of his xenophobia more and get real.

    For example Pro-Lisbonites ALWAYS say the population were unhappy with the party in government when the new constitution or treaty is rejected.

    They say people voting ‘no’ were not voting on the treaty but protesting at the party in power. So they are not valid votes.

    So is nothing is valid until it agrees with ‘Ronalds’ point of view?

    But magically, according to Ronald’s all knowing brain, Every vote for a ‘yes’ in favour of the constitution/treaty is valid. Can I ask where is the Logic in that? How do you work that one out Ronald? I don’t really think your name is Ronald Grünebaum but more likely your real name is Ronald MacDonald.
    Because you are a bit of a clown.

    Your country decided it did not need to ask your country’s people permission to change the constitution of your country. My country did have a vote. Your country maybe did not have a vote.
    That is not our fault, that is the fault of your country Ronald. In this way the Irish people are not ‘holding you to ransom’. they are just expressing their constitutional right to vote on anything that changes Ireland’s constitution.

    The Irish government has allowed a broadcasting commission to allow the state TV broadcaster RTE only to show the ‘Yes’ campaign and ignore the ‘No’ campaign. This is even though the Irish Supreme court (Highest court) ruled that this was unconstitutional and illegal. So here is a lesson for you on what a bigot is Ronald…

    EU did not like our vote so they put pressure on Irish government to have the vote again.
    Our Government did not like the peoples vote so they make us vote again.
    And they ILLEGALLY interfere with the national TV broadcaster.

    The definition of a bigot is as follows;

    ‘A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices’.

    In light of this the EU and the Irish government are bigots, as are you Ronald. Ronald the Clown, Ronald the Bigot. When the Irish vote again it will be a ‘Yes’ vote because little Irish people are getting bullied by the media and they have not heard the other side of the story.

    That is what people like you think of democracy. You’re a joke Ronald.

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