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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Aug 30, 2010 - 8:34:50 AM

Lisbon Treaty: The Irish have a neck in lecturing Europe; Don’t Knows should not vote
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Sep 4, 2009 - 6:46:41 AM

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From the Eurobarometer survey: The Europeans in 2009 Report - - The EU27 includes Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), the Czech Republic (CZ), Denmark (DK), Germany (DE), Estonia (EE), Ireland (IE), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), France (FR), Italy (IT), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Hungary (HU), Malta (MT), the Netherlands (NL), Austria (AT), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT), Romania (RO), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK), Finland (FI), Sweden (SE) and the United Kingdom (UK).

Lisbon Treaty: The Irish would have a brass neck in stalling progress in the European Union by rejecting the second referendum next month. Lecturing Europe on issues such as democratic accountability is a luxury, when Ireland's banking system is effectively a ward of the European Central Bank. As for the Don’t Knows who were reported to have mostly voted for a rejection of the treaty in June 2008, my advice is not to risk using ignorance or laziness to add to the self-inflicted economic wounds, at this time of adversity.

Perfection will never be found in multilateralism and the European Union is the most successful example of multilateralism in the history of the world.

From its genesis in the 1950s in the aftermath of the worst man-made calamity in the history of mankind, there has been a generosity of spirit in extending membership to less developed countries, such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece and then in 2004, the biggest expansion resulted from the admission of the former communist countries from Eastern Europe - - a momentous event in the modern history of Europe, which would have been considered inconceivable in 1987, when President Ronald Reagan gave his speech at the Berlin Wall and said: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

The Lisbon Treaty resulted from a desire to streamline the EU decision making process, following its biggest enlargement.

When Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973, the Iron Curtain hemmed in millions in the vast prison that was the Soviet Union and its satellite states, while military juntas ruled Spain, Portugal and Greece. By any measure, the enlargement to 27 countries and the development of the European Union from the wasteland in the aftermath of World War II, has been a remarkable success of gigantic proportions. Ireland has benefited enormously and compromise is the essence of such a huge project.

Seekers of utopian perfection and quibblers on process can never be satisfied. The Irish revolutionary Michael Collins saw the value of compromise in 1921 and paid with his life; in 1974, a compromise agreement in Northern Ireland was scuttled by the extremists on both sides and it took 33 more years of misery, for a similar agreement to be implemented by the former extremists. How can anything be achieved without compromise?

"The great powers of our time," the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck told a Russian diplomat in 1879, "are like travellers unknown to each other, whom chance has brought together in a carriage. They watch each other and when one of them puts his hand into his pocket, his neighbour gets ready his own revolver, in order to be able to fire the first shot."

American historian James J. Sheehan, says in his book Where have all the soldiers gone?,that between 1648 and 1789, the European powers had fought forty-eight wars. Between 1815 and 1914, there were only five wars in Europe, between two great powers - - all of them were limited in time and space and only one of them involved more than two major states. From the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to 1914, Europe was in a fragile peace and then, the first of two cataclysmic wars broke out across the Continent.

On June 02, 2008, the European Central Bank celebrated its 10th anniversary and President Jean-Claude Trichet said: "This historic vision has always been closely associated with the search for prosperity and the preservation of peace. Voltaire's remark: “En effet l’histoire n’est que le tableau des crimes et des malheurs” - - “Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes” - - from the perspective of the mid-twentieth century could not have been more apt . It is no surprise that it was at that point in time that Europeans decided to accelerate the march towards European unity."

In developing what resulted as the Lisbon Treaty, some policymakers had a desire to forge greater political cooperation but it's only eejits who believe that the European Union will transmute into a United States of Europe.

The elected governments or parliaments of 26 members of the EU27, have approved the results of years of haggling and compromises.

As I said, there is no perfection but there is even less in Ireland, with its indulgence of a governance system that is clearly unfit for purpose, a system of limited accountability where the buck stops nowhere, and an ignorant political leadership that has brought ruin to the economy.

The focus of energy in Ireland should be to change what doesn't work and in time, restore a moral authority that may wield some influence beyond Irish shores.

A country that depends on foreign firms for most of its exports - - firms for whom the perception of Ireland's role in the EU is important - - can ill afford responding to those who will dance on the head of a pin on issues like sovereignty; who may have never have been on a factory floor and have a knee-jerk response to perceived imperfections in Europe and the US.

IBEC director general Danny McCoy, said this week while on a visit to Brussels: “The economic crisis has crystallised the value of Europe, and reinforced the importance of Ireland’s reputation and strength within the EU. It has taught us that our future success and our international reputation are wedded to the ambitions and interests of our partners in Europe, and to the success of Europe in the wider world."

In the last campaign, most of the top earning Irish journalists had taken an anti-EU position and some also opposed the Euro - - Browne, Myers, Arnold, Dunphy, McGurk and Cooper.

Irish Independent columnist Bruce Arnold wrote last July from the security of his armchair: "Ireland's debate, between now and October, has changed. We are no longer crucial. We are marginal again -- unless we say 'No' and start to map a properly reformed Europe."

What fatuous delusion! We cant's even get our act together in this small country, nevermind reforming Europe!

Apart from the well-heeled journalists, the No campaign spans the spectrum from the UK Little Englander Independence Party (UKIP) and anti-abortionists to nationalist Sinn Féin.

The Irish Times reported on Thursday that UKIP will send a leaflet to every Irish home urging a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty to close an “open door” to immigrants.

It will also argue that the final decision on sensitive ethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia will pass from Irish to European courts if the treaty is ratified.

This is the tack taken by all the opponents - -  spread fear among the Don't Knows.

Cóir, which terms itself a voluntary, non-profit campaign group, said on Monday that the Lisbon Treaty posed a “serious threat to all European workers” by undermining the rights to a “living wage”.

Its spokesman, Brian Hickey, was reported as saying the EU court was repeatedly undermining this right, and the Government was “leading the charge” to lower the Irish minimum wage.

The ignoramuses in Cóir may not know that most of the social legislation that has been enacted in Ireland since the 1970s -- workers' rights; equal pay and so-on- had its origin in Brussels.

In 1973, the year of joining the then EEC, the Irish Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for the law to prohibit the import of contraceptives for personal use. It took the politicians another 20 years to properly reform it - -  starting with the requirement of a doctor's prescription to buy condoms in a pharmacy to a Taoiseach (Prime Minister) voting against his own government's bill on the issue.

The Charter Group, which comprises trade unionists who are campaigning for a Yes vote, said Cóir’s statements were “dishonest.” Its spokesman, Blair Horan, said: “There is no basis whatsoever for this ludicrous claim, and none of the European Court of Justice decisions referred to by Cóir made any reference to changing national statutory minimum wage rates.”

Paul Walsh, Professor of International Development Studies at University College, Dublin writes: "Our European partners since 1973 always had good social values. Clearly, good education and health systems, social protection, gender empowerment, good political systems, care for the environment, research and innovation and protection of livelihoods was at the centre of the European project. Our focus on Europe may have been economic but I would argue that the foundation of our success was built around social freedoms that the EU helped us create. This is also going to be the foundation of our recovery."

The once proud Europeans opted for impotence last time and President Stipe Mesic of aspiring member Croatia, said: "Now that they have used the accession and structural funds, when they have developed enormously, I'm a little surprised that the solidarity is at an end."

Solidarity indeed, shouldn't be a one-way street.

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