by Frank Schnittger
Tue Dec 25th, 2007 at 07:24:34 PM EST
I have been invited by Dick Roche (one of my local members of Parliament and sometime acquaintance on local community matters) to meet with him early in the new year to discuss the EU Reform Treaty and the Irish Government plans for holding a referendum on it. The sort of questions I want to ask him include:
- When will the Referendum be held?
- What plans has the Government got for a public information campaign on the Treaty?
- How is the Treaty different from the EU Constitution rejected by the French and Dutch voters, and what is the justification for bypassing a popular vote in other EU states on this occasion.
- What are the main lines of argument the Government will take in arguing its case for ratification?
- Who does the Government expect will oppose the Treaty and what will be their main lines of argument?
- What involvement in the campaign does the Government expect by other European Government and Opposition leaders
- Who are the key groups of "swing voters" who will be targeted in the Government Campaign
- Will the Treaty have any impact on issues such as Global warming, peak oil, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Darfur, Human Rights, Extraordinary Renditions and international relations issues generally.
- What are the long term implications of the treaty for the development of the EU?
- What will happen if the Referendum is defeated?
My personal interest in this is that I do not think that the political case for or against the treaty has been well made up until now, mainly as a consequence of the fact that it is not being put to the popular vote elsewhere in the EU.
There may have been particular political circumstances surrounding the defeat of the EU Constitution in France and Denmark, but that does not, of itself, justify the EU elite agreeing a similar treaty a second time around and bypassing a popular vote in all other EU Member States.
There is also the issue that the Treaty appears to have been deliberately written in as abstruse a manner as possible to stifle and confuse popular debate:
Speaking at a meeting of the Centre for European Reform in London on Thursday (12 July) former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato said: "They [EU leaders] decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception".
There is therefore a danger that the "debate" will revolve around hugely over-simplified and emotive symbols or images of "Neutrality", "Sovereignty", "Eurocracy", democracy and human rights which may bear little relationship to the actual content and long term impact of the Treaty itself.
Given the growing unpopularity of the Irish Government itself, it seems unlikely that the Irish Electorate will pass this referendum "on trust" just because the major Government and Opposition parties all support it.
If any ET members have any questions they would like the Irish Government to answer in relation to the Reform treaty this would be a good time and place to raise them. I would be particularly interested in the views and perspectives that have characterized the debate on the Treaty in other EU member states.
In Ireland that debate has barely begun. This is our chance to influence it.
See also my previous diary on Our European Identity