by Frank Schnittger
Sun Mar 30th, 2008 at 09:50:15 PM EST
Below the fold - The text of my
Letter to the Editor of the Irish Times (hidden behind a subscription firewall) arguing the larger European case for the Lisbon Treaty.
The text below includes the sentences edited out by the Irish Times in parentheses
Madam - Letters both for and against the Lisbon Treaty have become a regular feature of your columns, but almost all are couched in purely nationalistic terms, eg, will the Treaty effect Ireland's economic prospects, political influence, independence, neutrality, etc. or indeed will voting for it give aid and comfort to a discredited Irish Government. But surely the much bigger question is whether the Treaty will help the EU become a much more effective and influential decision making body in the world as a whole?
We live in a world dominated by the USA and its self perceived political and economic interests and its preferred means of pursuing them [- often resorting to war, engaging in torture, ignoring Treaty obligations, failing to ratify Treaties signed by almost every other nation, and refusing to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Courts of Justice]. The fall from grace of the US from its high water mark role as the moral leader of the world post World War 2, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of a China with a very dubious record on a whole range of human rights issues have all contributed to a vacuum of leadership, moral and otherwise, in the world today.
Ireland has a small yet proud record of contributing to third world development, UN Peace Keeping, and the resolution and transformation of conflicts on our own island.
Surely we should be looking to the EU, post enlargement, to become a much more effective and influential leadership force for good in the increasing dangerous and uncertain world in which we live? There isn't much new in the Lisbon Treaty that hasn't already been included in previous EU Treaties, but it does include a legally binding European Charter of Fundamental Rights, a more transparent leadership structure, and a more rationalised decision making process.
[The EU has an extraordinary record of peace making in western Europe, but grossly underperforms on the world stage when compared to its relative economic importance. ] It is in all our interests, as citizens of both Europe and the world, to ensure that the EU becomes much more influential in European and world affairs. The Lisbon Treaty is a small step towards that. [It is time we stopped looking out for just nationalistic interests, narrowly defined, and continued our proud tradition of making a greater contribution to Europe and the world as a whole.]
I wrote the letter because I felt that supporters of the Treaty were increasingly being put on the defensive by simplistic (and often just plain wrong) arguments to the effect that Ireland's national interest will be disadvantaged by the Treaty and taking no cognizance of the fact that it is also in Ireland's interest that the EU itself should become more influential in world affairs. This isn't just a zero-sum game where Ireland's relative position is diminished within a much larger EU. The EU itself is becoming a much bigger player in the world.
There is also a groundswell of opinion that the referendum affords the electorate a timely opportunity to deliver a vote of no confidence in the Government of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who is increasing embattled because of his personal finances and the manner in which he has accepted considerable "loans" and "political contributions" from private individuals and companies which he has put to personal use.
Bertie Ahern has said he will step down before the next election in any case (not due until 2012) and there has been speculation that he would be interested in a prominent EU role (probably the new Presidency of the Council) which is due to be filled next year should Ireland ratify the Treaty. Some would argue that the prospect of him leaving Office in Ireland as soon as next year would therefore be a good reason for ratifying the Treaty!
However it is important that the Referendum debate itself should focus on the larger issues facing the EU and the world - hence my LTE. There hasn't been any recent opinion poll indicating how the campaign is going, and everything hinges on the turnout. A low poll could well result in the Treaty Referendum being defeated (as happened with the Nice Treaty - when a second referendum had to be held on a marginally revised Treaty). Given that the Lisbon Treaty has already been defeated by popular vote in France and the Netherlands (when it was framed as a new Constitution for the EU) a third popular rejection by a national electorate could be fatal for the prospects of institutional reform within the EU for quite some time to come.