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News : EU Economy Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM


Lisbon Treaty: Campaigning for democratic accountability and transparency in Brussels but why not try it in Dublin first?
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
May 26, 2008 - 8:20:19 AM

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The Lisbon Treaty Referendum is opposed by a kaleidoscopic group with socialist party Sinn Féin and the Irish Farmers Association, whose members have for decades been the top per capita beneficiaries of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), leading the charge against approval by the Irish electorate.  Both groupings have more in common than they may think as the CAP is the biggest welfare programme in Europe.

Some would vote No, no matter what the issue is. Some middle class professionals who opposed the 1972 referendum, are still opposed because of sovereignty for example. Of course an interest rate of 15.5% such as Iceland's current one, wouldn't be a worry to those folk, at this stage.

Others such as Green Party supporters, want a level of utopian perfection that can never be attained.

Farmers on CAP, want to maintain their existing protections and land rezoning as well.

To get 27 countries to reach a compromise on anything must be considered an achievement.

And lets give credit to the principal member countries who agreed to a process of enlargement and provided significant foreign aid to poor countries like Ireland.

Ireland was able to avoid a direct experience of World War II and the evolution of the EU has been a singular achievement. Most of the gripes are petty. Some are mean-minded - what's in it for me jack approach? Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

A contributor to an online forum who opposes the Treaty said: I stopped going to my local dry cleaners because the new girl behind the counter, pleasant though she was, immediately handed me a Polish-English Dictionary as soon as I entered the shop. Unacceptable in Pearse Street, IMHO.

It wasn't unacceptable to take foreign money and continue taking it until 2013! -
Ireland's 40-year bonanza of foreign aid from the European Union will amount to €41 billion by the time we become a net contributor in 2013

Libertas, which is funded by businessman Declan Ganley, says it is "dedicated to campaigning for greater democratic accountability and transparency in the institutions of the EU and developing innovative policies which can benefit Europe and foster a more positive relationship between those institutions and the citizens for whom they legislate."

We are far from a model of "democratic accountability and transparency" and we have a brass neck in lecturing others about it.

It's a pity that the energy and resources that are being put into the No campaign would not be better applied more productively at home.

A parliament that is shuttered for five months each year, legislators who see their principal role as "messenger boys" and a pass the buck system of governance that remains largely unchanged since the 1930's, could do with some attention and reform.

As for transparency, try using the Freedom of Information Act without even knowing the limit in advance, on the total charge for  providing information .

As for the don't-knows, IBEC, the business lobby group on Sunday encouraged those that are unsure about the content of the Lisbon Treaty to find out, and make use of the large amount of easily understandable material out there. The importance of this vote for Ireland's future place in Europe cannot be stressed enough.

IBEC Director of EU and International Affairs Brendan Butler said: "Some opponents of the Treaty have reverted to the old line: ‘if you don’t know vote no', however, there is plenty easy to understand information out there. Our message is " If in doubt , find out".

Butler was responding to the Red C poll today which shows that 1 in 4 people have not decided how they intend voting on June 12. "While the overall results confirm that the yes side remains ahead it is vital that those promoting the Treaty ensure that people receive the necessary accurate information to allow them make an informed choice."

"The Irish population is one of the most informed in Europe on the EU. Previous referendums have meant that there has always been a very healthy public debate here on European issues. The Lisbon Treaty is very important for both Ireland and Europe, it is vital that we all get informed and make use of all the information available."

IBEC pointed out that both the independent Referendum Commission and the Forum on Europe have dedicated websites and have produced easy to understand guides. There are several hundred public meetings being organised around the country on the Treaty and various helplines have been established to deal with questions that people might have.

Butler strongly rejected claims by some campaigning against the Treaty that it is unintelligible. "Like previous treaties, the Lisbon Treaty is a detailed legal document. This is necessary to provide legal certainty and ensure that Ireland's interests are securely protected. It provisions, however, can easily be understood. Pervious treaties have very successfully protected Irish interests and encouraged the creation of more jobs, this treaty will do the same.

"Some critics are even pretending not to understand anything in the Treaty while at the same time claiming that they be taken seriously when they speak at length of its content and make claims that it will have serious negative consequences. They cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim to understand nothing in one breath and in the next to pretend to be an authority on the Treaty," concluded Butler.

Millionaire Ulick McEvaddy, who has urged a no vote in the referendum, has been reported as describing the text of the treaty as “unintelligible drivel”.

Maybe he could say the same about the 1957 Treaty of Rome that launched what has become the European Union.

IBEC has developed a dedicated website http://www.ibeclisbon.ie/, and has produced a guide on the Treaty.

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