Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

Des Dalton: Vote No to Lisbon Treaty

Speech held by Des Dalton, Vice President of Republican Sinn Féin, on September 8th in Vienna, Austria. The public meeting entitled The Second Lisbon Referendum in Ireland was attended by about 200 people.

Having already rejected the Lisbon Treaty last year the people of Ireland are being forced to vote a second time. Rather than accept the vote of the people in the 2008 Referendum the Irish government instead chose to ignore that vote. At the bidding of the power brokers of Brussels they are forcing a second referendum – as they did with the Nice Treaty in 2003 – effectively they have sided with the EU political elite in opposition to their own people. The Lisbon Treaty was not renegotiated and consequently has not been altered in any way.

Their campaign is based on fear and disinformation all with the purpose of stampeding the people into a militarised United States of Europe.
The mainstream media are willing agents in this manufacturing of consent –to paraphrase US academic and campaigner Noam Chomsky – with little pretence of balance in providing space to those calling for a No vote.

There are six key points which are at the core of the argument for the rejection of Lisbon:

1. Leading Irish campaigner for a No vote Anthony Coughlan sums up clearly what the Lisbon Treaty means in practical terms: “The Lisbon provisions that would abolishes the old European Community which we (Ireland) joined in 1973, establishes a legally new European Union in the constitutional form of a supranational Federation and makes us all real citizens of this new state-like entity”.

The Lisbon Treaty will make people citizens of a Federal European Union. In cases of conflict Irish people’s rights and duties as citizens would be subordinate to their rights and duties of the new EU super-state with all its implications.

2. The Irish people are being asked to sign up to an EU state in which laws would be made primarily on the basis of population size. For instance Germany’s vote in making laws would increase from 8% to 17% of the total EU vote whilst that of the 26-County state would fall from 2% to 0.8%. This means that Germany would have 20 times the vote of the 26 Counties whilst Britain, France and Italy would have 15 times the vote.

3. The right of the 26-County state to “propose” its nominee as a member of the EU Commission – the body which has the monopoly of proposing all EU laws –would be replaced by the right to make “suggestions” only. The final decision would be made by the President of the EU Commission who would be appointed by the bigger states. This means replacing a bottom-up process of appointment by a top-down one.

4. The Lisbon Treaty would abolish the national veto which Ireland has at present in some 30 new policy areas by handing over to the EU power to make laws binding on Irish people in areas such as public services, policing, crime, justice, public health transport etc. The Lisbon Treaty is a charter for the neo-liberal economics which have caused the economic collapse we experience today. This will have serious consequences in two important aspects. Firstly in changes to the economic and monetary policy. The Lisbon Treaty along with provisions in existing treaties would substantially reduce the democratic control which citizens could have over measures taken to reduce budget deficits and borrowing requirements. In Ireland at present the government are at present sacrificing public services and the living standards of working people to save the banks. However public pressure and the mobilisation of people can change the government and the economic measures it takes.

For instance using major investment in public projects to halt the growth of unemployment and create new jobs. A neo-liberal EU Commission could use the powers given to it under Lisbon to force states to comply with its budgetary requirements. It would punish governments who would invest in education, health services and public transport. Instead ordinary people would pay for a capitalist crisis through cuts in services and living standards while endorsing – as the EU Commission already has – multi-billion bailouts for banks and speculators.

Regarding workers rights the European Court of Justice in a number of important judgements have sets the needs and priorities of the free markets above those of the rights pay and conditions of working people.

Two significant judgements were the Laval and Ruffert cases where the ECJ ruled that companies employing workers from EU state in another were entitled to pay significantly lower wages to its workers than those negotiated and agreed in the host state. It based this on the primacy under EU law of the free movement of goods, labour and capital. Despite claims that the ‘Charter of Fundamental Rights’ has been promoted as protecting the rights of workers. However Article 52 - the wording of which is based on the case law of the ECJ -of the Charter makes it clear that those rights –including the right to strike- “shall be exercised under the conditions and within the limits” of the Treaty of European Union and Community Treaties. In short there would be no new rights for workers under Lisbon but the rights promised would be subject to and inferior to the rights of employers and contractors to exploit their workers for lower pay and inferior conditions of employment.

5. Despite what we are told the sky will not come down on Ireland if we reject Lisbon for a second time. If there is a second No vote the Czech Republic and Poland will not ratify the Treaty. It may well be that Germany itself will not have ratified it by the time of the referendum.

6. Even without Lisbon EU miltarisation is a priority, the European Defence Agency is in reality a vehicle for the European arms industry to influence EU policy and
budgets. Representatives of two of Europe’s biggest arms manufacturers BAE and Thales were represented alongside senior politicians in a working group that drafted the security and defence clauses of the EU constitution.

The Lisbon Treaty enhances the political importance of the EDA. Article 28 mandates the agency to take “any useful measure” it views as necessary to “strengthen the industrial and technological base” of European defence. The agency is also given the job of helping EU governments to bolster the arms industry by monitoring their observance of commitments under Lisbon to increased spending on military equipment. In the Treaty these are referred to as “capability commitments.

As reported in the Sunday Business Post on August 16 the EU’s foreign policy think-tank the European Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) states that the EU needs “to build a twin robust civilian and military capacity” over the next decade. The EU’s High Representative – defacto Foreign Minister post-Lisbon – Javier Solana adds his weight to this “We must have the personnel and capabilities –both civilian and military-to back up these political ambitions”, Solana writes.

For what, we are entitled to ask, is this increased military force to be used? Is it to fight the “resource wars of the 21st Century” which the then President of the EU Commission Jacque Delors predicted in the early 1990s. To be used by the developed and rich north against the developing and poor south for possession of their natural resources.

This campaign is part and parcel of the struggle against imperialism. Just as we oppose British imperialism in Ireland we must also oppose the new imperialism of the EU. The purpose of the Lisbon Treaty/EU Constitution is to build an undemocratic, militarised and ultra-capitalist super-state. The Irish economist the late Raymond Crotty described the EU project as imperialism by other means.

Democracy works best in terms of accountability and involvement by the people in the democratic process at national level – Republican Sinn Fein advocates even further decentralisation right down to regional and local level. Bringing the power of decision making down to this level brings democracy alive and relevant to people.

Not only do we believe in democracy within nations but also between them.
As Irish Republicans we are also internationalists committed to building a community of free nations. In opposing the Lisbon Treaty we are not only upholding national democracy but also the ideal of international democracy and true solidarity between nations in defence of human rights.

Republican Sinn Féin takes as our touchstone the democratic principles of the 1916 Proclamation and we view the idea of a militarised and undemocratic EU States of Europe as a subversion of those principles. Stand up for the rights of workers, oppose militarisation and imperialism vote No to Lisbon II.
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