More Idiot's Guide To The Lisbon Treaty

Since posting our original Guide to the Lisbon Treaty the debate has somewhat heated up. The 'Yes' campaign has finally started, and the referendum is finally getting daily national media coverage.

Understandably a few more issues and questions have arisen which we didn't quite touch on in our initial 'Idiot's Guide'. So this post is something of an add-on to the original. It's not going to be as lengthy as the first one, as most of the issues were covered there, but should answer some of the outstanding questions.

As usual, a healthy skepticism is urged when reading this kind of thing. I'll reiterate what I said before the last one: I don't have a party affiliation, or an agenda. This research was conducted to try to make sense of all the crap floating around concerning this treaty. My opinion at this stage is that I'll be voting yes, but this is based solely on the facts turned up during my research (for which I've read everything I could get my hands on, listened to debates & speeches, attended meetings, and even read a lot of the actual treaty- which is as horribly dense as everyone says it is).

Righto. Click the 'read more' to get going.

Lets take this point by point.

Firstly, the main one, and the issue that is pissing me off the most.

Losing an EU Commissioner

One of the recurring arguments against the treaty is the fact that Ireland will lose an EU Commissioner. This one seems to be rolled out at every debate, with people such as Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald consistently describing it as 'Ireland losing power in Europe'.

This is utter crap, and here's why:

1. EVERYONE loses a commissioner, not just Ireland. There are only so many jobs to go round in the commission, and having more people sitting around the table than is necessary is counter-productive. So if Lisbon gets passed there will only be as many commissioners as there are jobs, with each country sitting out a few years in rotation. No one's getting the short straw.

2. (and this is the big one) Commissioners are not representatives of Ireland in Europe. The commission is the entity designed to protect the interests of the Union as a whole. When entering the post each commissioner must swear an oath that their actions will only be motivated by the interests of the Union, and all national concerns will be put aside.

So we could have a hundred Irish commissioners in there twenty-four hours a day and it still wouldn't matter a damn to Ireland.

'The Lisbon Treaty is Self-Amending'

What's meant by that in the first place? Basically that be signing off on Lisbon we'll never have to vote on things like this again, because it incorporates a mechanism for 'beaurocrats' to make changes in the future without all this silly voting malarkey.

Well, yes, it does cut through some red tape. Article 48 of the treaty allows for a speedy, simplified method of drawing up a future amended treaty. Obviously creating a document of this nature takes time (check out the document itself, it's fairly intense), so Lisbon attempts to make this process less painful. But... as the treaty is very careful of in all ar
eas, any changes must always be "in accordance with member states' constitutional requirements". Which means there's no way they could just sneak in something dramatic and get away with it.

But more importantly- the changes in Article 48 are merely to the process of drawing up an amending treaty. There is no change to the fact that any amendment must be ratified in the proper fashion, ie: we'll still have to vote on it. First in the European Parliament, then on to individual states to be decided upon in either the National Parliaments, as is the case in most of Europe, or through a referendum, as is the case with Ireland. Everyone will still get their say on whether or not any of these future amendments are passed.

There will be a new 'President of Europe' (ala President of the USA)

This is a common mistake made by confusing the new post of 'High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy' with a 'President of Europe'. There will be no 'President of Europe'. The new post is largely administrative, and combines the existing posts of (deep breath) 'High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy' and 'European Commissioner for External Relations'.

The bearer of this post will have no formal powers, but rather work as a mouthpiece for the previously agreed upon foreign policies of the Union. This seems to be just another instance of making the whole thing less messy and cutting out some red tape. The new High-Representative will put a face on Europe for purposes of foreign policy, but that policy will still be decided upon in the same way it always has- through the Parliament, the Commission, and ultimately the individual member states.


Ok, so the neutrality thing is a buzz issue, but I think it's fairly clear to everyone at this stage that Ireland's neutrality is not affected by Lisbon. But what impact will the treaty have on the military, if any? Well, the truth is that if Lisbon is ratified, there will definitely be more militarisation.

Once you've picked yourself up off the floor we'll continue.

It is a desire of some that all armies within the Union be of reasonable standard, so that each countries armed forces are capable of operating effectively. Hence Lisbon obliges each country to increase it's military spending to achieve this level. There's talk of centralised spending (instead of all the individual countries putting in small equipment orders, Europe puts in one big one, hence cheaper), but that's not in the treaty- it'll be argued over another day.

This does not mean we'll build our army in to a major force. This does not mean we can be conscripted into the army (Irish or European). This does not mean military issues will have any more attention than they do now. What this means is that when we go off on peace-keeping missions (such as the one in which Irish troops are currently involved in Sudan) our army will be equipped to a certain standard, and one that is common throughout all of Europe.


These four seem to be the issues which keep cropping up, but of course there are bound to be others which we've yet to address- so you can probably expect another post on Lisbon before the day of the referendum. I hope everyone's still vaguely keeping up will all the madness.

If you haven't read our original Idiot's Guide you can check it out here.

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May 27, 2008 at 10:14 AM daniel said...

While it is nice/odd to see debate about this on music blogs you seem to be pushing a yes vote and not really presenting an unbiased account. You seem to be just debunking 'myths' of the NO vote and not the yes.

I personally am voting no because of a few reasons.

i) I personally do not like this new expected level of European integration. It was originally set up to prevent war in Europe after WWII but now it seems to me that we are moving toward as US-style grouping of nations.

ii)We rejected this already along with French and Dutch voters so please don't just re-wrap it and give it to us again. It's like receiving the SAME bad socks two birthdays in a row.

iii) The Treaty discusses and makes the Charter of Fundamental Rights
from 2000 legally binding. Ever heard of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Wikipedia: "Although the UDHR is a non-binding resolution, it is now considered to be a central component of international customary law".

iv)It would seem that the EU expanded too fast. If they are now claiming that the institutions of the EU are unable to cope with the burden of so many states and need reform and tightening up to continue, well it begs the question: why did you accept them if the EU is unable to cope with the strain? It's like making one's self sick purposely.

But then this is what I think and just felt a bit obliged to say something. I do really like your blog [well except for this :)]

May 27, 2008 at 2:50 PM Clockwork Rob said...

Hey Daniel,

Yeh, it is more a debunking myths post, and in fact I might insert that phrase into it! I was concerned that it's far from my earlier Lisbon post as far as bias is concerned, I'm pretty much all go on the yes side now! But the main inspiration behind this is the misinformation being touted (primarily by the likes of Mary Lou) which annoys the crap outta me.

Thanks for you comment anyways- Debate is always good!


May 27, 2008 at 9:13 PM Evil Bob said...

Okay I'm going to jump in here and defend Rob's post off my own bat (although he does administer a nice blow job).

Daniel while you do make a valid point I would like to point out that while this is primarily a music blog we have always encompassed a number of different pop culture items (which is the reason why we were nominated in the popculture section of the blog awards and not the music section) and politics is therefore ripe for the picking.

I would like to state that Rob does not speak for all of us in his politics but he has the advantage in that I (and I'm guessing C/A/D is the same but can't confirm) do not give a fuck enough, so he pretty much gets to corner the market as far as politics go.

My lethargy on the subject of politics is one that has prompted heated debate not just with Rob but with others that I consort with, but the fact remains that there are numbers of us out there who are content to let others make decisions on our behalf because we
a) do not care
b) do not think it makes any difference
c) are not fooled by the repackaging - and don't think that that aspect hasn't escaped me for a moment daniel.
d) genuinely do not give a fuck.

Having said that I am more than content to let Rob post on this as he chooses. Debate is healthy even if it leads to apathy and on an entirely selfish note it generates hits on the blog which, in fairness, does us no harm whatsoever.

May 28, 2008 at 12:35 AM Hello from STEPcoach! said...

As an Irishman of the diaspora (all four of my grandparents were of Irish descent) I am vitally interested in the present and, especially, the future of my home land. This issue of the Lisbon Treaty frightens me to death! I'm afraid that too many of my brothers and sisters do not realize that the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is in effect a decision equal to new elections in Ireland. The decision on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty is - upon transferring the current powers of the nation state of Ireland to the federal state in Brussels – it is a decision on accepting or rejecting the permanent construction of A NEW FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT OVER IRELAND. To do so will be to utterly discard on the rubbish heap of history all the sacrifices of our ancestors, both the suffering against British oppression and the fighting for freedom in which so many lives were lost.

This is a crucial time in Irish history - a time when you/we will decide whether to march on under your/our own strength and character and leadership or to surrender your/our rights, lives, and fate to others who have, upon every past opportunity, either turned their backs on Ireland in her need or swooped in to take advantage of her riches. Which is exactly what is happening now. Ireland (God bless her forever!) has risen, by her own strength of character and moral fortitude and by God's kind grace, far above her past of subjection and base poverty to a point where she is a jewel in the crown of Europe and the world. Ireland has earned all her scars and medals of valour and has come into her own - at last. (One might quote of Ireland as well, "Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty, we're free at last!")

And now, in the time of finally enjoying the fruits of our hard-won, blood-bought freedoms and successes, Ireland considers handing over her self-mastery to yet another foreign dictator! God forbid it! Let Ireland be Ireland, not some small dot on the EU map. Let Ireland be Ireland, not another chattel within another kingdom - for such is the becoming EU/EC. Never forget the sacrifices made by our (OUR) grandparents for the possibility of self-rule for Ireland. We are Ireland! We are not Europeans - we never have been. We were at best pets, at worst slaves of Europeans. Ireland has suffered too long to throw away her freedom and self-sufficiency on yet another European master race. We are Ireland!

Look long and hard at America and learn from her mistakes. Under her own power, the United States stood together by choice. Today, we have given up the idea of mutually beneficial partnership among the member states and have become subjects to a dictatorial Federal Government who seeks to rip our choice from us - from freedom of religion to freedom of choice to freedom of speech. American is becoming what the EU would march straight into, from the beginning.

Ireland, my Ireland, whom I learned to pray for and to love from my mother's knee and my father's stories, remember the source of your strength in your tortured past - return to your faith and your moral sense of self. God lead you through 700 years of tribulation and abject slavery. Your/our sense of Irish identity apart from that of the rest of the world kept us unified and alive during years of deprivation and attempted genocide. Please, please, please don't give all that up now for a new, stronger master.

We, the children of your diaspora, are counting on you to safeguard our heritage and our home. Guard and keep them from another outsider who seeks to steal and destroy our culture. We are counting on you. Please don't let us down. Remain independent and free and self-governing. Please.

We are Ireland!

May 28, 2008 at 1:23 AM Clockwork Rob said...

Wow, thanks for that spirited comment.

Hmmm... where to begin? You seem to be not just anti-Lisbon, but completely anti-Europe. Which is fair enough, but I think it's fair to say that Europe has been good to Ireland.

We haven't lost any of our character or national identity (except that which our own politicians have paved over), and instead been economically revitalized.

I wasn't around for much of the pre-Europe Ireland, so I can't speak from personal appearance, but the general consensus is that it was a damn sight tougher than it was today. Little in the way of money or employment, thus resulting in mass emigration. Europe has made our little country fairly prosperous, and the benefits of this can be seen every day.

We haven't given up power to Europe, we're still obviously self-governing, and we still have our say in every move made by the EU.

I don't see what 'our dead martyrs' and all that anti-brit crap has to do with anything. This is the 21st century. I think it's somewhat disrespectful (ahem.. Sinn Fein) to be presume how the dead of the Rising & the War of Independence would feel about this issue, as their fight was over something different altogether!

To liken the British rule of Ireland to Ireland's membership of the EU is ludicrous, and a shameless attempt to garner support by bringing up a emotionally charged buzz issue.

As for the risk of the 'United States of Europe', I'll admit that when I first heard about the proposed Lisbon treaty, that was my immediate thought. But I assure you that after reading up on the matter I have found that to very much not be the case.

I would be very sceptical of the benefits of such a Union, and would not like to see Europe go down that 'federal' route, but I have researched the treaty thoroughly and am confident that this is not that route.

Thanks for your comment, I hope you read this response (it's quite long).

May 28, 2008 at 7:57 AM Evil Bob said...

*Nods and smiles*

May 28, 2008 at 10:54 AM the ozmatron said...

This "Hello from STEPcoach!" character really should stick to subjects he knows.

He reminds me of the "Irish/American" community that funded much of the IRA's long war in the belief that they were helping freedom fighters and giving themselves a financial right to wrap themselves in a tricolour.

If your of Irish descent fair enough, but those of us who actually live here know what Europe did for Ireland. Ireland didn't drag itself out of economic despair all by itself, and nor was it because the generous American corporations brought us jobs. It was a combination of many things, an important part of which was the economic aid provided by Brussels (as Eastern Europe now enjoys, and will prosper as a result)

Europe began as a way of stopping countries fighting each other, then it became a way of keeping Europe's economy going through removing trade barriers on coal and steel. Now it has evolved to represent Europe as an economic and political power in the world, how has it done this? Through diplomatic and democratic means involving all 27 member states.

So don't wave a simplistic wand and say Ireland having a whole team MEP's and diplomats in Brussels somehow resembles the Dublin Castle administration 100 years ago!

May 28, 2008 at 1:35 PM Seán said...

the only thing about the lisbon treaty that scares me in the slightest is the 'executive power' business. i think it's referred to as the Special Legislative Powers in the book that comes through the door. basically it's saying that there may come a time, when a new law can be passed without consulting the european parliament. the european council (who aren't elected) can bring in new laws without consultation of an elected body. seems a bit weird...

May 28, 2008 at 2:03 PM Hello from STEPcoach! said...


Clockwork Rob, "Europe has made our little country fairly prosperous, and the benefits of this can be seen every day."
THAT's exactly what I see happening; a sense that Ireland owes its successes, not to her own character and strengths, but to European intervention. God bless you Rob, but balderdash! (yes, I said balderdash!) When (Oh no! here he goes again!) Ireland was under britain's boot, no one in Europe cared ... for 700 YEARS! Now that Ireland has the money and the resources and the world stage, it's "Oh, let's let Ireland in to be a partner to contributing to our reunification attempt.

and to Ozmatron:
Darn right, I'm not in Ireland today - I realize it every day. I regret that my grands had to free persecution and deprivation to live, but that was what they saw they had to do. My home is Ireland, I just live in the patchwork quilt of America.

But, to both of you: my more distant perspective combined with 50 years closely observing the mess America is making of our freedoms by sacrificing them to forces against our basic character and historical (what little bit of history we have) stance, all give me the understanding of what you, my blood kin are giving up.

Stand on your own, Ireland. If it gets tough, turn to your historic resources, your faith in God and your culture. Don't become a tiny piece in the EU puzzle.

Ireland, stand strong!

Thank you for hearing a brother across the sea. Please, please don't discard us diaspora. Our blood yearns of Ireland. Please preserve our homeland.

May 28, 2008 at 3:17 PM Clockwork Rob said...

"Now that Ireland has the money and the resources and the world stage..."

And how is it we happened to come across these things? I'll give you a clue- we didn't have all that cash hidden under our mattresses.

I appreciate that you obviously feel very passionately about this, but, honestly, what would you have us do? Go back to the 'fightin' days of extreme nationalism?

I'm sorry, but (with all due respect) your view of Ireland seems a bit removed from reality. It's ovbiously been colored by your family history, which is fair enough. No one would argue that in times gone by that kind of passion was a fantastic and essential thing, but you have to appreciate that it is now the 21st century, and that kind of romantic nationalism is in the past. I'm very proud to be Irish, and very proud of our history, but we are a modern nation in a modern world with modern issues.

I do not want a United States of Europe. I do not want our National Identity to be dimished. I do not want to hand power over to a federal government in Brussels. This Lisbon treaty does none of these things.

I do want Ireland to continue to prosper and develop, and I do want Ireland to have it's voice heard on issues that will affect the world. I think the EU is vital to these things, so I'm pro-Europe.

June 1, 2008 at 4:08 PM Chrisnostanding said...

Its good to see people having such a strong opinion on these kind of issues but they have to be based on fact not talking around the subject.

All that Hello From step coach really said was 'Vote No to Lisbon as it may take some power from Ireland'. Why this took several paragraphs to say I don't know but a more convincing arguement would be to state your point then back it up with reference to the treaty itself not misty-eyed romanticisms of days gone by.

And as much as I hate to say it, as I believe those who are truly of Irish Heritage deserve to have some link to the country, using the claim that your grandparents were Irish doesn't really give you much idea of an idea of what it is to live here now. If you have lived here even for a short period then you at least have some claim to knowing what the current political state in Ireland is.

As for Europe not stepping in in the past, Europe as an established entity rather than just a continent, has not been around for the 700 years you claim Ireland has been under Britains boot. It has been there for a fraction of that time.

I currently am undecided on what I will vote but am swinging towards a yes. Posts like this frustrate me so much that they push me further towards a yes vote as it seems that most people who are anti-lisbon are using scare tactics and unfounded beliefs.

This is not how I want my vote to be decided. I want facts and arguments presented clearly and argued for or against in a fair way, unclouded by emotional investment or history. What we should be looking at is how this will affect us in the future not how we've been treated in the past. Whether that is being oppressed by a foreign government or being assisted by the EU.

Sorry for the extremely long post.