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I think you are in danger of confusing the reality of the now with our ideals for what we would like to see.
As I understand it, Lisbon is the first treaty to formally begin the process of embodying a concept of European citizenship - and so without Lisbon, discussion of the EU as a single political entity with a single demos is somewhat moot. Up until now the EU as a single entity has only been embodied in what many would regard as elite institutions - EP, EC, ECJ and Commission. I would welcome such a development, which is part of why I support Lisbon.
So your second comment is essentially correct - the EU - through Lisbon and the development of petition rights, greater qualified majority voting etc. - is in the process of moving from a a Union of Sovereign states, to a Union with a legal personality in its own rights, and some citizen rights deriving directly from that Union and not derived via the constitutions of the member states.
In time this will no doubts lead to a greater focus on e.g. inequalities in health benefits or social welfare entitlements between member states - and so in a post Lisbon scenario, it certainly becomes meaningful for e.g. the Irish criticising the Poles for their poor social welfare system which means that Ireland is paying Irish social welfare benefits to Polish workers, now living back in Poland, because they used to work in Ireland and are thus entitled to Irish rates and benefits for social welfare.
So to answer your first comment point by point:
# Lisbon is sufficiently momentous a development that it justifies - indeed, requires - the use of plebiscites in its ratification.
- No Treaty or common citizenship rights deriving from Lisbon or any other past or proposed treaty gives the right to one member state to demand a plebiscite in another on any issue. We might like - e.g. the UK to hold a referendum on joining the Euro, or giving independence to Scotland, but we cannot demand it, or imply that the UK is somehow failing to live up to its EU Treaty obligations for failing to conduct one..
# Such plebiscites were indeed promised (and in some cases carried out) elsewhere in the Union.
- Yes indeed, and all of those countries have subsequently ratified Lisbon without a plebiscite but in accordance with their own Constitutions and their EU Treaty obligations. If lived in one of those countries I would certainly criticise and oppose any Government that had reneged on a promise of a plebiscite but that is a matter of internal political opposition within that state. E.g. Holland does not have to answer to Ireland for failing to hold a Plebiscite, but the Dutch Government does have to answer to its own electorate for failing to do so..
# When it became clear that the current system of plebiscites would reject Lisbon, those promises were (occasionally retroactively!) withdrawn.
- Again an internal political issue for the state in question. The most obvious example I can think of is the UK which has promised plebiscites on EU membership, the Euro?? (not sure) and the Constitutional Treaty. These are a political promises made by various Government and Opposition parties to the UK electorate - not of any concern to Ireland - although Sinn Fein, as a largely N.Ireland based party can legitimately complain to the UK Government about this. (It does not, of course do so because it doesn't really want to acknowledge being part of the UK in N.I.).
It is hardly a unique situation that a political party fails to deliver on an election promise or resiles from one through the artifice of pretending that the Lisbon and Constitutional Treaties are not the same and so a promise made in relation to one doesn't apply to another.
# This amounts to an ill treatment of the legitimate democratic concerns of citizens of other countries in the Union.
- So lets bring in the Nazis to make it better?
# This should be a concern for the Irish electorate - if not in their capacity as citizens of Ireland, then in their capacity as citizens of the European Union.
- such citizenship does not formally exist prior to the Lisbon Treaty, and even subsequently exists only to a very limited degree, and certainly not on any matter on which (e.g. the UK) has not ceded competence to the EU.
The above discussion relates to where the EU is now, and where it will be post Lisbon ratification.
That does not mean that I wouldn't like to see EU citizenship rights expanded radically - so that e.g. all EU citizens have similar educational, health, social welfare, and employments rights. This might see the development of those rights stalled in some member states whilst others catch up and are provided with scarce EU funding in order to enable them to do so. Thus obviously member states would have to formally agree to this - probably in a new treaty codifying those rights and providing the EU with minimal funding to support it.
However my greater point is that we need to be less woolly about what competencies have and have not actually been transferred or pooled by member states. All such transfers or poolings will be hard fought within each member state because they imply real transfers of resources. Sinn Fein, Libertas, Coir and sundry nationalist groups in Ireland have consistently opposed all such attempts at greater integration in the past and their claim to favour them now is wholly disingenuous.
You don't get a right, within the EU, to tell e.g. the UK it must do something without conceding the right to the UK to tell you to do something similar in Ireland. That is what pooling of sovereignty and weighted majority voting bis all about, and that is why such Treaties which extend this are so hard fought...
Sinn Fein, Libertas, Coir and sundry nationalist groups want the EU to have no say in many matters on which Ireland has already ceded some sovereignty, and proposes to cede more under Lisbon. That is why they have no right to demand actions of other member states in matters in which Ireland too has ceded no Sovereignty. Whether or not Ireland holds a referendum is entirely determined by the Irish constitution - it has nothing to do with our EU obligations - because the EU has no competence to mandate how member states should conduct their ratification process - and neither does Lisbon change this.
Effectively, in political terms, Sinn Fein, Libertas, Coir and sundry nationalist groups in Ireland are seeking to make common cause with other Nationalist groups in other countries to roll back the trend towards EU integration seen in recent treaties. Their most effective tactic for doing so is to emphasise the unanimity rule - such that Malta could hold up a proposal effecting all of the EU.
In such a situation to law of marginal political pricing applies. It is in EVERY countries interest to be the last man standing and hold the rest of the EU to ransom - even on a proposal that it might want in the first place - Ireland was a major player in the drafting of the EU Constitution).
The EU is a fundamentally unstable and inert body for so long as any 1% can always hold the 99% to ransom. That is the problematic the integration process is slowly trying to address through a series of incremental Treaties, and that is why it is so bitterly opposed by nationalist groups who don't want the EU to develop or even exist in the first place.
It is Sinn Fein, Libertas, Coir and sundry nationalist groups which are being fundamentally inconsistent by claiming to have greater rights to influence other Member state internal ratification procedures than EU statutes actually allow whilst at the same time trying to roll back what integration the EU as established under existing Treaties actually does now permit. In so doing they create the popular illusion of an all powerful, elitist, and meddling institution which interferes with ordinary citizens lives to an extraordinary degree.
The reality is that the EU is in fact only a skeletal structure with very few emergent powers and and with few effective means to defend itself against such rapid populist rhetoric. My concern IS that it is too much like a supranational Weimar - all too easy to stall and even topple by a resurgent nationalism - and all the more so because its proponents have lost any comprehensive vision of what it should be about, and all ability to sell it to into a political market dominated by national chauvinism.
Those who demand that legitimate EU progression can only occur though unanimous support by 27 plebiscites in 27 members know that it is in every one of those members interests to be the last man dissenting in order to secure the greatest concessions from all the others. The EU has to stand up to such electoral blackmail if there is to be any prospect for any future Treaty to be passed. That is the political reality of the EU as it is, perhaps not what we would like it to be. But that is the starting point from which we must begin.
There is an old story told about an American tourist lost in the wilds of Connemara. After many hours driving along country boreens with signs either non-existent or in unintelligible Irish, thy finally come across an old man standing at a cross-roads.
Relieved, they ask him what would be the best way to Galway. "Well" says the old man "If I were going to Galway, I wouldn't be starting from here!"
Regrettably we have no choice but to, and that means having a clearer view of what rights the EU does and does not actually confer, and on what are the real agendas of those who purport to support its future development.
notes from no w here
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