In September this year I visited cemeteries along the route of the western front of the First World War, where Irish Soldiers lie among the fallen. The European powers and their acolytes killed millions of young men in the name of … well, not even historians agree on why they fought. The war to end all wars failed to live up to its billing. The European powers went back to the mass killing of soldiers and civilians two decades later. Conservative estimates place the number of dead at 70 million. It’s easy to let those numbers slide by, misled by Stalin’s cold remark that the death of one person is tragic but the death of a million is “a statistic”.
Two great political projects emerged from the carnage: The European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Union and its associated institutions and treaties. The idea behind the latter was simple. By placing the raw materials needed for war under common control of former belligerents, future armed aggression might be avoided. By building a community of European states, shared prosperity might secure peace and shared peace might secure prosperity.
The founding fathers knew that this vision could not be realised unless the community could make rules to be followed in all states, even if some states disagreed. A community of states depending on unanimity for each decision could not succeed.
The breakthrough for the nascent states-based union came when the first six members agreed to a package of rules based on shared sovereignty and limited veto powers. The community has, ever since its inception, constantly refined the way it works: making new rules as the number of participating states grows; always seeking “ever closer union”. The goal of drawing the states closer to each other was not merely for the avoidance of war, though that remains its lasting inspiration and achievement. As the world grew smaller and globalisation became the backdrop, the European states realised that some decisions are best taken by the member states acting together. The union of states expanded from a crude trading bloc into a true community – with shared ideals for equality, a common foreign and security policy, and respect for the rights of men and women in free and democratic states.
The 1992 Maastricht Treaty was probably the most significant moment in the Community’s history. It created the European Union and led to the creation of the Euro. However, it failed to address adequately the rising chorus of complaint that the Union was suffering from a democratic deficit.The Treaty of Lisbon – unlike Maastricht or the Single European Act – did not change any of the fundamentals of the Union. But it did make significant provision to address the democratic deficit – increasing the powers of the European parliament; giving national parliaments a role in European law-making; requiring new laws to be supported by 55% of the member states or 65% of the population of the states, and giving citizens the right to petition for new laws.
The Lisbon Treaty was a great achievement and the latest – and possibly last – building block in the creation of a community of states fit for purpose and true to its original cause. The left thinks it capitalist, the right thinks it socialist, and the greens think it fails to address the environment adequately. Maybe they are all correct – and that is the strength of the Treaty of Lisbon.
It is a pity that the Irish people rejected the treaty. Most of the No campaign was based on false assertions. The Treaty did not reduce the one commissioner per state rule (that was done by earlier provision). It did not seek to introduce abortion , gay marriage or euthanasia. It did not require Ireland to harmonise her tax code and abolish the low corporate tax rate. It did not require the Irish army to participate in a European army. Lisbon rules could not even order an Irish soldier to tie her shoe laces!
The Lisbon Campaign in Ireland
Libertas ran a brilliant “Vote No”campaign, albeit one based on false claims. It was spectacularly well funded. Sinn Fein were also very effective. The people responsible for those eye catching monkey posters also played a significant role (the name of the publisher on the posters was impossible to read because it was too small, though I believe it was a conservative Christian group).
I understand the motives of Sinn Fein. Nationalists, they abhor the idea of sharing power with other states. The Christian groups regret the passing of Catholic Ireland and associate the Union with its loss of status, power and prestige.
But I cannot understand what motivated Libertas. Mr Ganley voted in favour of each European Treaty – including Maastricht and the Single European Act. But mild-mannered Lisbon made him snap. I want to know why.
The only way the motivation for the Libertas campaign can be verified is by knowing who paid for it. Declan Ganley won’t tell us and he is not required by law to tell us more than he told the authorities in Ireland. Our financial disclosure rules for referendum campaigners are weak.
It seems to me that a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty issue is unavoidable – politically, at least. And Libertas will be back with more well-funded false assertions designed to ensure that the European Union cannot begin operating under the Lisbon rules.
If, as has been reported in the media, Libertas has links to the US military manufacturing industry, we deserve to know more. This is particularly important given that the Lisbon Treaty envisages that “the common foreign and security policy shall be put into effect… using national and Union resources”. Does Libertas interpret this provision to mean that the European Union would be required, by Lisbon, to equip its armies, navies and air forces from within the Union, as opposed to sourcing its requirements from US military undertakings? Is that a motivating factor for its backers? If we had more knowledge about the funding of Libertas we might get closer to answering such questions.
That is why I proposed to the Editor of Village a reward scheme seeking to discover who funded Libertas. When we know who paid for the most expensive private political campaign in the history of State, we will know their motivation. And then th Irish people will know just who it is who is asking them to vote No, and maybe also, Why.
The cemeteries of Europe prove it matters.