Posts Tagged ‘lisbon treaty’

10 Article extracts on the Lisbon Treaty

2009, March 8

Shorts –

Doug Bandow: “Europe is not disunited because it lacks a consolidated government. Europe lacks such a government because it is not united… even if the continent’s governments could paper over their own disagreements, they lack any popular support for a serious EU foreign policy.”

Bruno Waterfield: “The EU is not a system of representation or a public authority. It is a set of institutions and relationships that has emerged for the convenience of national state bureaucracies. EU treaties and texts are written for European officialdom, not for the peoples of Europe.”

Josie Appleton: “The unflattering terms used to describe the electorate became less and less guarded – which culminated, after the Irish vote this year, in two separate Brussels officials describing the Irish people as outright ‘bastards’.”

Tara McCormack: “Normally when European officials castigate some Eastern European or African state over their electoral procedures, they argue that the lack of non-governmental sources of information is a big problem – in Ireland, however, they think there are too many non-governmental sources of information.”

Frank Furedi: “Like Robert Mugabe, the EU oligarchs seriously believe that a referendum is simply a public relations exercise, the results of which don’t have to be taken very seriously. The main difference between Mugabe and someone like Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, is one of style: Mugabe doesn’t mince his words; Barroso speaks from a script written by an Orwellian ghost-writer.”

Kevin Rooney: “This sums up everything you need to know about Ireland’s disgusted elite: they would rather stay in their little media world, far away from messy public arenas where people were debating the Treaty… Ireland’s political leaders have been given a lesson in democracy by the people – it is a shame that so few of them are in lesson-learning mode.”

Gerry Feehily: “The spectre haunting Europe these days is one of caring, sharing despotism – not Big Brother, but Big Mother.”

Brendan O’Neill: “The message is clear: the Irish should know their place in the European set-up and slavishly bow and scrape before their paymasters in Brussels… Welcome to the ‘democratic’ EU –… where the one country that is holding a referendum – Ireland – has been subjected to the kind of financial, political and emotional blackmail that would make even Imelda Marcos squirm.”

Kevin Rooney: “Something unusual is happening in Ireland: the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty has prompted an unprecedented national debate. Everyone wants to have their say. But the powers-that-be aren’t happy about it.”

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http://www.takimag.com/site/article/empire_of_nothing/
Taki’s Magazine: The online magazine for independent conservatives
Empire of Nothing
Doug Bandow
September 18, 2008

“…democracy is fine, as long as it yields the correct outcome. Kind of the Brezhnev Doctrine applied to European politics.”

“…even if the Irish public ends up giving in, the result would not be an effective, united Europe. The basic problem with the European emphasis on process is that it won’t work without underlying political will. But political will is lacking on both elite and mass levels.
The elite agree more on process than substance, most obviously the right of the elite to make all important decisions”

“Europe is not disunited because it lacks a consolidated government. Europe lacks such a government because it is not united.”

“However, while the Eurocrats agree on the basic governing structure, they do not agree on policy.”

“But even if the continent’s governments could paper over their own disagreements, they lack any popular support for a serious EU foreign policy. It might be possible to continue constructing an overbearing regulatory bureaucracy and impose it on a largely quiescent population. Without a firm popular foundation it is not, however, possible to create a quasi-nation state ready and able to play an active role in the world.”

“Finally and more fundamental, even with Lisbon the European “state” would still lack the sense of national identity and popular willingness to stand behind—and, if necessary, die for—EU policy. America’s greatest strength is not a truly national government. It is a people who believe in the nation, the union of individual states, and who will support the national government in making policy. That Europe does not have, and it would not be magically created by the Lisbon Treaty. Andrew Duff dismissed Irish concerns over maintaining their traditional position of neutrality: “Viewed from the perspective of Gori or Tskhinvali, Irish misgivings about neutrality rather pale into insignificance.” But from the perspective of Dublin the concerns actually are magnified by the Georgian crisis. Do the Irish people want to get dragged into a war with nuclear-armed Russia because a distant and largely unaccountable elite in Brussels, which has demonstrated its utter disdain for what the Irish people think, decides that war is necessary? Maybe their perspective isn’t so stupid after all.”

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5350/
Sp¡ked Online
Monday 16 June 2008
Bruno Waterfield
‘The plan now is to quarantine Ireland’
BRUSSELS: The Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph reports on the EU’s plans to forge ahead.

“The Irish ‘No’ counts more than any of the 18 Treaty ratifications carried out so far, because it was a popular vote. The 862,415 Irish who voted ‘No’ count more because they are more real than other EU populations who have been cited as political ciphers by their governments in the ratification process. Ireland’s ‘No’ followed decisions taken by people involved in a living political campaign. It was not another mere statistical ‘Yes’, to be marshalled by EU apologists after denying referendums in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland and elsewhere. On 12 June, a survey published in the Volkskrant newspaper, a Netherlands equivalent to the UK Guardian, found that 60 per cent of Dutch people wanted the Irish to vote ‘No’. Across Europe, opinion poll after opinion poll has found that the majority of people are against the Lisbon Treaty or in favour of a referendum on it.”

“Such contemptuous references to the capacity of the Irish people to decide on a ‘complex’ document were a pivotal factor in the ‘Yes’ campaign. The truth of the matter was, and is, that Europe’s elites are instinctively uneasy about people reading a text that was not written for them in the first place. And Irish voters reacted accordingly. The EU is not a system of representation or a public authority. It is a set of institutions and relationships that has emerged for the convenience of national state bureaucracies. EU treaties and texts are written for European officialdom, not for the peoples of Europe.”

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/6002/
Sp¡ked Online
Josie Appleton
Are EU deaf or what?
The author of a new EU Phrasebook, launched in Brussels[…] analyses European leaders’ utter inability to understand the word ‘No’.

“Four times, European voters have said ‘No’ to European Union documents: in Ireland on 7 June 2001 (Nice Treaty); in France and Holland on 29 May and 1 June 2005 (European Constitution); and most recently in Ireland on 12 June 2008 (Lisbon Treaty). And all four times, European leaders responded by effectively saying: ‘No doesn’t really mean no.’

For most people, a vote is a question asked, and an answer received. Yet European and national politicians treated the ‘No’ votes not as answers, but as obstacles to be negotiated around. They deployed a variety of creative phrasing and reasoning to indicate why these votes did not really count, and how they could be avoided.”

“In every case, the rejection of the treaty only hardened leaders’ conviction that the treaty was necessary, and that they had been right to propose it and push it through. The problem was not the failure of their treaty, but of the electorate, which was apparently not sophisticated and grown-up enough to appreciate this elevated piece of political craftsmanship.”

“Over the course of the four ‘No’ votes in recent years, European leaders became more assured about brushing the votes aside like an irritating fly. They became more visibly irritated with what they described as a ‘block’ to the ‘policymaking process’, or an ‘obstacle to the timetable’. The unflattering terms used to describe the electorate became less and less guarded – which culminated, after the Irish vote this year, in two separate Brussels officials describing the Irish people as outright ‘bastards’.”

“At times, EU leaders have issued gloves-off threats to ensure they get their desired ‘Yes’ vote, as with German MEP Elmar Brok’s dark mention of ‘consequences for Ireland’ if there were another ‘No’. The transcript of the meeting between the presidents of the European Parliament and Czech president Václav Klaus shows the EU officials behaving like a band of heavies, ‘paying him a visit’ to warn him off associating with the Irish ‘No’ campaign. They fell short of threatening his family, but in all other respects it was pure Mafia tactics.

At other times, EU leaders have adopted the tone of an understanding primary school teacher, trying to be tolerant of her pupils’ mistakes. Vice-president of the EU Commission, Margot Wallström, favours this approach. She has said she is determined to ‘analyse’ the vote and discover voters’ concerns, to find out where they had gone so wrong. And then they would have a second try: Are you sure you want to say no? Why don’t you try again?

Whether in Mafioso or primary school mode, what is universally lacking is any respect for the electorate – any sense that votes mean something and should count. Any sense that, at base, leaders are answerable to the electorate, and not the other way around.”

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5709/
Sp¡ked Online
Wednesday 10 September 2008
Tara McCormack
Hell hath no fury like a Eurocrat scorned
A leaked briefing reveals why officials think they lost the Irish referendum: because there’s ‘too much’ press freedom.

“… the Irish Times made public an apparently private briefing paper written by the European Commission (EC), which was mysteriously leaked[…] in the EC’s eyes, it is on the world wide web where things have really spun out of control. The rise of so-called ‘citizen journalism’, blogs and alternative websites not linked to the dominant media groups, has caused real problems for the future of the EU, apparently. The briefing warns that: ‘The internet has allowed increased communication between citizen groups away from government and traditional media dominated sources.’

For example, the blogosphere, says the briefing, was overwhelmingly negative towards the Lisbon Treaty. Apparently, where the ‘No’ campaign released creative and witty videos and songs through websites such as YouTube, official bodies, such as the Referendum Commission, used the new media ineffectively. According to the EC, this made it difficult for pro-EU officials and activists to connect with a ‘younger, internet-savvy audience’.”

“…it seems to get its messages mixed up. On one hand, the EC briefing warns of Murdoch controlling too much of the press in Ireland – yet on the other, it is equally unhappy with the rising number of independent internet sources.”

“… the ‘No’ vote in Ireland expressed people’s sense of alienation and disgruntlement with the EU oligarchy and their distant, aloof rulers in general. In this cynical briefing, which was cynically leaked, European officials reveal their elitist and censorious instincts, their distaste for a free and mixed media, which apparently allows for too much communication between citizens outside of government control. Normally when European officials castigate some Eastern European or African state over their electoral procedures, they argue that the lack of non-governmental sources of information is a big problem – in Ireland, however, they think there are too many non-governmental sources of information.

Beneath the cool and ‘factual’ nature of this EC briefing, there lies a snobbish and contemptuous attitude towards the Irish voters and the peoples of Europe more broadly[…]

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5373/
Sp¡ked Online
Monday 23 June 2008
Frank Furedi
After the Irish ‘No’ vote: pathologising populism
The EU elites’ Mugabe-style disdain for their populist opponents only shows how cut off they are from the people of Europe.

“As far as EU supporters are concerned, democracy is a curse, which threatens to undo all the good things they achieved during months of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. The remarkable thing about their reaction to the Irish electorate – who rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum on 12 June – is that it expresses an intense hostility towards the European public more broadly.

Like Robert Mugabe, the EU oligarchs seriously believe that a referendum is simply a public relations exercise, the results of which don’t have to be taken very seriously. The main difference between Mugabe and someone like Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, is one of style: Mugabe doesn’t mince his words; Barroso speaks from a script written by an Orwellian ghost-writer.”

“… the EU doesn’t want to come across like a tin-pot dictatorship, openly flouting the ‘popular will’; it prefers to take a more subtle, behind-the-scenes approach to undermining the impact and influence of public opinion.”

“One of the most disturbing developments in the EU is the spread of the idea that the public’s behaviour is irrational, extreme and potentially dangerous. Anyone who reads the European press will be struck by its powerful mood of suspicion towards ordinary citizens and their political views. There is a growing consensus that people are all too easily swayed by dangerous ideas, and thus they cannot be relied upon to exercise their public duties in a responsible manner.”

“Critics of referenda are often motivated by their own uncertainties, because they recognise that they lack any decent arguments with which to convince the electorate. Instead of doing something about the paucity of their own arguments, the EU oligarchs prefer to blame ‘populism’ for all of their troubles. In recent times, ‘populism’ has been rhetorically transformed into a twenty-first-century equivalent of an old-style fascistic movement. Those who question the legitimacy of the EU are frequently dismissed as naive fools who, as Barroso argues, have fallen ‘into the populist temptation of depicting the European Commission as the expression of bureaucracy and technocracy’.

In reality, contemporary angst about populism and populist movements reflects the profound gulf that separates the political class from the people. It is true that sections of the European public may be influenced by confused prejudices, and may have a narrow and parochial outlook. But so what? An open-minded and democratically inspired public figure would regard this as a challenge to be confronted through debate and political engagement. What the public needs is not cynical rhetoric about ‘respect’, but rather to be taken seriously in the political process.

The tendency to treat supporters of populist campaigns as the enemy, as foolish individuals who should be ignored or possibly saved, betrays the elite’s feeble attachment to democratic politics. After all, supporters of populism constitute an important section of the populace, and they should be taken no less seriously than those whose views appear more enlightened. It is also important to note that populist movements are influenced by a variety of contradictory things. Disenchantment with the political system and the EU elites can lead people to adopt a narrow-minded, divisive attitude of them-and-us in relation to other groups. But very often, populist movements are influenced by an aspiration for social solidarity.

Social solidarity, however, is a sentiment that most EU oligarchs wouldn’t recognise if they bumped into it.”

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5347/
Sp¡ked Online
Monday 16 June 2008
Frank Furedi
Now it’s clear: the EU is an alien imposition in Europe
They have been libelled as an uneducated ‘horde’, yet Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty is a brilliant blow against the EU oligarchy.

“Oligarchs cannot stand public humiliation. So when, last Thursday, the Irish electorate pointed their fingers and shouted ‘The Emperor has no clothes!’, the political elites of the European Union pretended that it was not them who stood exposed, but the Irish people.

EU officials, politicians and their friends in the media all read from the same carefully rehearsed script following the Irish electorate’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. Adopting a kind of fantasy language, with all the hallmarks of classic Orwellian doublespeak, the EU and its representatives told the world that the ‘No’ vote did not really mean ‘No’, since Irish voters were thoroughly confused.

They argued that the vote lacked meaning or legitimacy because the campaign against the Lisbon Treaty – the name given to the rebranded EU Constitution – encompassed far too many different interest groups to be taken seriously. Apparently, a campaign that successfully brings together people from the far left to the Catholic right cannot be a genuine expression of popular will.”

“Consider the breathtaking cynicism of the EU Commissioner Margaret Wallström. She told the BBC that we must ‘analyse’ the Irish result and then conduct a public survey to find out what was behind the ‘No’ vote. Taking on the role of a disinterested doctor or scientist, Wallström believes that ‘research’ can discover the source of the Irish disease; such ‘research’ will no doubt lead to the cobbling together of a diagnosis, and then a cure.

The rejection of the proposed EU Constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005 represented an important blow for freedom, and a challenge to the aloof, technocratic politics of the EU. However, even though Ireland is a small nation which lacks the economic and political influence of France or Holland, its ‘No’ vote was, in many respects, even more significant. Perhaps the most important contribution made by the Irish ‘No’ campaign has been to give some clarity to the disconnection between the electorate and the political class.

Voters and the political class do not only inhabit different worlds – they speak in different languages. Of course, the disconnection between the people of Europe and the institutions of the European Union has been evident for some time. Yet normally, this distance between voters and their rulers expressed itself in falling voter turnout and declining levels of participation in party political activity; surveys also showed that EU institutions lack legitimacy amongst the public, and that officialdom is out of touch with public sensibilities. The ‘No’ vote in Ireland, however, has revealed something far more important: that for a significant section of the public, elite EU institutions are not only illegitimate – they are an alien imposition.”

“The cultural dissonance between the elite and the people was on full display during the Irish referendum. It’s worth noting that those media commentators who denounced the rag-tag army of ‘No’ voters happily overlooked the rag-tag army of elite interests behind the ‘Yes’ campaign.”

“One of the most disturbing features of the EU’s propaganda before, during and after the Irish referendum was the systematic attempt to infantilise the opponents of the EU. The Irish were described as ‘ungracious’ and ‘truculent’, as school pupils who disobeyed their teachers; they were depicted as children who refused to show sufficient gratitude for all the presents they have received from the EU (see Ireland, you ungrateful wretch!, by Brendan O’Neill). The Irish were continually reminded that their recent prosperity has been founded on EU largesse.

The message is clear: the immature response of the Irish people to the Lisbon Treaty should not be taken seriously. This relentless attempt to infantilise an entire people is an alarming historical moment.”

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5349/
Sp¡ked Online
Monday 16 June 2008
Kevin Rooney
‘After all the money you got. Ungrateful b*stards’
DUBLIN: Kevin Rooney reports on the Irish elite’s fury at the ‘unspeakable’ mass who dared to reject the Treaty.

“From the minute it became clear that the Irish people had said ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty, Irish politicians and commentators lined up to spew bile at the electorate.

Uneducated, racist, ungrateful, parochial, dysfunctional: those are just some of the insults hurled at the 53 per cent of voters who rejected Lisbon. Swearing is not normally allowed in Ireland’s quality papers, but an exception was made after Thursday’s referendum. The Irish Times quoted one Brussels official as saying: ‘Ungrateful bastards. After all the money you got.’

Leo Varadkar, a leading member of the Irish party Fine Gael, accused the ‘No’ campaign of exploiting the xenophobia of the voters. The Irish Times wheeled out Professor Richard Sinnott of University College Dublin, an ‘expert’ on the Irish voter, who explained that the Irish people were somehow incapable of understanding what was at stake in the referendum. Apparently this is a result of Irish people’s low level of education and their lack of confidence in their own ability to grasp ‘complex issues’.

The breathtakingly elitist view that the ‘No’ camp was basically too stupid to understand the Treaty and its implications was expressed everywhere in the media coverage of the result.”

“The Irish elite is disgusted by the ‘No’ vote because the electorate effectively voted against the recommendations of the entire establishment. This was noted in Ireland’s biggest-selling paper, the Irish Independent: ‘[The “No” vote] was made contrary to the urgings of the government, all the mainstream political parties, the business establishment, most of the trade union movement, and a significant part of the academic community and other respected elements of civil society.’ Yet instead of examining the paucity and patronising nature of its own agenda, which a majority of Irish people rejected, Ireland’s establishment is focusing on the alleged stupidity and wilfulness of the electorate.

In the run-up to the vote, and after it, many commentators came close to saying that a referendum was more democracy than the people of Ireland deserved. Commentators vied with each other to come up with the most derogatory terms possible to describe the ‘No’ campaign. Writing two days after the rejection of Lisbon, James Downey spoke for many when he said in the Irish Independent: ‘Never in the history of unholy alliances has a coalition ranging from the impossible to the unspeakable inflicted on the Irish establishment such a smashing blow… All of them [the “No” campaigners] should have been swatted away weeks ago by the forces of the establishment.’

Reducing voters to the kind of insects that can be ‘swatted away’ shows how serious and hysterical the Irish elite’s assault on the electorate is becoming.”

“In truth, the referendum was democracy in action. Yes, there was a strange alliance of interests in the ‘No’ camp, and of course there were some reactionary politics on display. It is probably true that some ‘No’ voters may not have understood the Treaty. But none of this detracts from the fact that – after debating the Treaty in bars, on the streets, on national radio, everywhere – a majority of the Irish electorate traipsed to the ballot booths to say that they were unconvinced by the arguments of their political leaders, and they would not be swayed by threats and insults from the chattering classes.”

“Instead of addressing the many political issues raised by the ‘No’ campaign, Ireland’s political leaders have shown nothing but contempt for the electorate. When the referendum campaign started, politicians thought it would be enough to plaster the country with huge posters showing their smiling faces next to the word ‘YES!’, as if that would be enough to convince the voters. They have paid a very high price for their impoverished view of democracy, and for undermining the self-respect and nous of the voters.”

This sums up everything you need to know about Ireland’s disgusted elite: they would rather stay in their little media world, far away from messy public arenas where people were debating the Treaty. No wonder they lost, arrogant bastards. Ireland’s political leaders have been given a lesson in democracy by the people – it is a shame that so few of them are in lesson-learning mode.

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5348/
Sp¡ked Online
Monday 16 June 2008
Gerry Feehily
‘The Irish are not fun-loving goblins’
PARIS: An Irish writer in France tells of his heated TV debates with the Sarkozian critics of Ireland’s child-like voters.
‘Whatever they say we are, that’s what we’re not.’

“The spectre haunting Europe these days is one of caring, sharing despotism – not Big Brother, but Big Mother. This attitude was best summed up in one of the TV debates I took part in, where a Euro-deputy of President Sarkozy’s UMP party suggested that the Irish, and other EU citizens, needed pedagogy – that is, like children, we need to be informed of our best interests.

Indeed, amongst the EU elites, the Irish ‘No’ is being pitied in the way one pities a toddler who throws a tantrum in the high street. Such official pity can be seen in relation to other forms of legitimate protest, too, be they strikes or street demonstrations. One only has to think back to the ineffectual million-strong marches against Gulf War II that took place in Europe to see the indifference, if not contempt, with which contemporary leaders disregard traditional expressions of opposition.”

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http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5304/
Sp¡ked Online
Tuesday 10 June 2008
Brendan O’Neill
Ireland: know your place, you ungrateful wretch!
The bile-filled assault on Irish voters who are thinking of rejecting the Lisbon Treaty shows just how corrupt and undemocratic is the EU.

‘Here, Brendan O’Neill argues that the attack on Irish voters who are thinking of rejecting the Lisbon Treaty exposes the anti-democratic elitism at the heart of the EU. Further below, Kevin Rooney says the Lisbon referendum has re-ignited political debate in Ireland.’

“The message is clear: the Irish should know their place in the European set-up and slavishly bow and scrape before their paymasters in Brussels. Anything else would be ‘extraordinarily ungrateful’, according to one commentator (1). Welcome to the ‘democratic’ EU – where most countries are bypassing their electorates and simply ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, and where the one country that is holding a referendum – Ireland – has been subjected to the kind of financial, political and emotional blackmail that would make even Imelda Marcos squirm.”

“The attacks on Irish voters for being ‘extraordinarily ungrateful’ – both for initially rejecting Nice in 2001 and for even thinking about saying ‘No’ to Lisbon this week – reveal a great deal about ‘democracy’ in the EU. The EU’s bureaucrats and backers seem dumbfounded that they cannot buy Irish people’s support; they find it ‘hard to fathom’ that a people who have received subsidies worth billions of Euros are not falling in line behind their rulers. It is the mark of corrupt, degenerate and anti-democratic elitism to believe that you can buy people’s votes. Indeed, in many civilised, democratic countries it is illegal for political parties to offer voters financial reward for their ballots. Yet, Mafioso-style, EU backers are telling the Irish: ‘You’ve received your monies – now do as we say.’

The assaults on Irish voters also show what it means to be a ‘democratic citizen’ in the EU: that is, someone who is financially cared for by caring-but-faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, and who should be ‘overflowing with appreciation’ for the EU elite’s grace and favour. This is the very opposite of political citizenship; it is a distortion of the traditional relationship between citizens and their governing bodies. In place of free and open debate, in which citizens are treated as adults who can have political views independent of any welfare they might receive from the authorities, we have a situation where those who dare to criticise or complain or say ‘No’ are denounced as ‘extraordinarily ungrateful’ and even ‘treacherous’ (11). This is the kind of relationship a child has with his guardian, or a mentally ill person with his carer – it has nothing whatever to do with democracy.

Indeed, the use of that T-word – treacherous – to describe Irish voters who have rejected EU treaties tells you everything you need to know about the EU elite’s view of the European masses. According to the OED, to be treacherous is to ‘commit treason against a sovereign, lord or master’; it is to be ‘deceiving, perfidious, false, disloyal, traitorous’. The EU clearly considers itself lord of all Europe, and the people its nodding serfs. That it can be described as ‘treachery’ to make a certain political choice inside the ballot booth shows the extent to which Lisbon, like Nice before it, is an already agreed document that parliaments and the people are merely expected to rubber-stamp. How dare the ungrateful, wretched, deceitful Irish jeopardise the EU elite’s already agreed-upon and carefully thought-through plans?

The expectation that the Irish should say ‘Yes’ to Lisbon gives the lie to the idea of equality in the EU. In Brussels and across the pro-EU commentariat it is assumed that poorer countries in particular – Ireland, and also southern states such as Spain and Portugal, and the new Eastern European entries – should behave like ‘the best pupils of the European class’ (12) because they receive generous subsidies from their masters. When the awarding of financial support becomes a key determinant in how states should relate to Brussels, then any notion of sovereign equality goes out the window. Richer states such as Britain, Germany and France can afford a more robust relationship with Brussels, whereas poorer states are told to be grateful, gracious, obedient and unquestioning. In the creaking, oligarchical bureaucracy that is the EU, the citizens of poorer member states are effectively disenfranchised, or certainly are ‘less equal’ than citizens in states that are not so reliant on EU subsidies.”

The Irish referendum has struck the fear of God into the EU and its supporters – and with good reason. The fact that the ‘No’ vote is gaining ground shows that, even in nations that have for the past 35 years effectively been bribed with subsidies by EU officials, the EU has not been able to win any sense of affinity and loyalty. It is still seen by large sections of the European people as an aloof, distant and authoritarian institution to which we should say ‘No’, ‘Non’, ‘Nein’; the EU has come to embody people’s bigger sense of dislocation from political institutions today. The Irish referendum is exposing the thin veneer of the EU’s legitimacy and stripping away its democratic masquerade, leaving it exposed as shrill, undemocratic, unequal and corrupt. Who wouldn’t want to say ‘No’ to that?

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THE RETURN OF POLITICAL DEBATE
by Kevin Rooney

“Something unusual is happening in Ireland: the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty has prompted an unprecedented national debate. Everyone wants to have their say. But the powers-that-be aren’t happy about it.”

“… the display of so many different arguments is also quite gratifying in an age when politics is so often managed, controlled and dull. EU-related issues are being debated in bars, workplaces, on radio phone-ins. There has even been a return of ‘soapbox politics’, with heated local meetings taking place in town centres. In an effort to keep up, the new Irish Taoiseach – Brian Cowen – has taken to the campaign trail; every day he can be seen on farms, high streets and going door-to-door asking people to vote ‘Yes’.

There is little anti-Europeanism in Ireland. There is no equivalent of the UK Independence Party or the eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party. Very few people are hostile to Europe itself. However, opinion polls show that there is a growing suspicion of the aloof technocrats of the European Union, who presume to know what’s best for people without engaging them.

In essence, the referendum has provided an opportunity for the Irish people to express their exasperation with their political leaders (both domestic and European) and remind them that they cannot take people’s votes for granted. The Irish Times is outraged about this, arguing that ‘it surely says something about the dysfunctional state of Irish democracy that a majority of voters do not appear to be willing to trust the people they elected to govern them on a fundamental issue of national importance for this and future generations’. Yet it is in the nature of democracy for people to think about things, discuss them, to hold their leaders to account and to high standards.”

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