Sunday, 30 August 2009

Stop inventing the Lisbon Treaty!

No, I am not going into details about the Lisbon Treaty, because I don't want to ruin my Sunday.

Just the basics:
  1. The Lisbon Treaty is a huge messy document that no one really likes to read.
  2. Most of the people talking about the Lisbon Treaty have never read it.
  3. And even fewer have tried to compare it with how the EU works based on the Nice Treaty and based on over 50 years of non-treaty institutional developments.
The consequence:
  1. Most people talking about the Lisbon Treaty treat it as if the Union didn't exist, as if Lisbon created something new.
  2. Most critics don't discuss the changes introduced by Lisbon compared to Nice - that's why they never quote articles - but their vision of what the EU does.
  3. 90% of what is said about Lisbon is propaganda, totally covering the 10% of actually reasonable critique that is based on what the Treaty changes or doesn't change.
What I think:
  1. As a 27 nation compromise, Lisbon is far from perfect - but it's still better than the even more chaotic and complicated Nice Treaty!
  2. A debate based on selective, non-comparative reading of single provisions of the Treaty, or based on invented issues is even worse than a not perfect Treaty.
  3. I don't support the whole text, but I find 90% of the institutional changes made in comparison to Nice advantageous for me as a citizen, in particular the strengthening of the EU Parliament and the stricter subsidiarity provisions regarding national parliaments.
My conclusions:
  1. I support the Lisbon Treaty, hoping for further amelioration in the future.
  2. I hope that the Irish will vote YES, knowing that it is a "Compromise-YES".
  3. I hope that Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic will ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.
But in any case, even if you disagree:

Stop inventing the Lisbon Treaty - if you are criticising the Treaty, please quote the article you refer to and the changes it brings compared to Nice and current practices, so that we can discuss on real grounds, not based on rumours!

13 comments:

citizen of Europe said...

I borrowed a book about the constitutional system of the USA and the authors write there:
"The main feature of the USA constitution is its brevity. ... If we compare the constitution of the USA with a proposal of the European "constitutional" document we can see that American experience
has functioned in European document's creators in a sense negatively. The extraordinary and much criticized extensivity of the European "constitution" was especially due to the fact that its authors tried to describe competencies of the Union in detail. This particularity however has overgrown to difficult clarity of the European proposal sometimes and that actually considerably reduces a possibility to forsee what is really in competence of the EU.
"

"Most people talking about the Lisbon Treaty treat it as if the Union didn't exist" - The union exists in that sense that the current international organization is called "Union". (The Lisbon Treaty will not change anything in it naturally.)

"Lisbon is far from perfect" - The question is whether the Lisbon Treaty is not far from what Europe really needs at all now.

"in particular the strengthening of the EU Parliament" - If the strengthening of the current EU control and consultative assembly will proceed with existing pace, it will become a real parliament some day in the 22th century.

"I support the Lisbon Treaty, hoping for further amelioration in the future" - The question now is - what amelioration? To an ideal international organization? Or some true union that is a federation? If the second, the hope of the treaty is improper. How an amelioration of an international treaty can form a union?

"I hope that Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic will ratify the Treaty as soon as possible" - if you lived in the Czech republic, you would not hope so.

Julien Frisch said...

The question is: What is realistic?

I think that the present polity - an international treaty system that has created supranational and transnational dynamics - is strongly path dependent, and its existence is based on continuous incremental change guaranteed by political compromises that encompass over two dozens of countries.

I don't think that there is a realistic chance of getting a true constitution in the near future - we will have to see how to make the present polity better, as hard as this may be.

And any comparison with the USA is hardly valid, because there a political system was created on the basis of a newly developing, non-sovereign political system, not on 6-27 sovereign states with a history of bloody wars and over 20 official languages, different political and administrative systems and the lack of a common myth or enemy.

Insideur said...

The detailed description of the EU's competences in the Lisbon Treaty is the best guarantee that the EU will not become a single state. It's essentially a rulebook written by the Member States to keep the EU from overstepping its boundaries. In my opinion it confirms the primacy of the Member States.

And to answer the point by citizen of Europe, inasmuch as the Lisbon Treaty is an improvement over what we have now, then yes, it is what we really need now. If you believe that it's an improvement, there isn't really any other logical position. Now if you don't think it's an improvement, I think Julien would love to hear precisely what it is you object to.

Jon Worth said...

I agree with most of this Julien, except the part on national parliaments.

National parliaments are intrinsically lazy when it comes to EU matters. Only the Danish and Finnish parliaments come close to using the powers national parliaments already have under the Treaty of Nice, and who votes for a national parliament according to what parties' EU positions are anyway?

The notion that you can fix the EU via national parliaments is very much false.

citizen of Europe said...

"The question is: What is realistic? ... I don't think that there is a realistic chance of getting a true constitution in the near future" - You are right that there will be no change in near future. But it is also impossible to take up a standpoint "let us be realistic and not think on a substantial change" for ever. Nothing will be changed ever with this viewpoint. Without idealism nothing will be reached, also present EU would not exist (imagine it in 1930 - impossible).

Julien Frisch said...

@ Jon

I don't think national parliaments are a way to fix the EU, but as long as the member states have this considerable amount of influence on policy-making, I prefer to give responsibility to the parliaments rather than to the executives which have way to much influence.

And I don't want the parliaments to be lazy...!!!

@ Insideur

I don't want to limit my thinking just to the immediately realistic goals, and I hope much more for the Union; I would be more than happy if such a change for the better came.

Yet, having seen the institutional (non-)developments over the last years, I don't think it is realistic to think that we can work with the classical political means to overcome the present deadlock and the unsynchronised behaviour of actors all over the Union. Which doesn't mean that I don't hope for it!

VNTL said...

@VNTL Everyone seems to forget that we the people have already voted NO. Not one word of the treaty has changed, not one, and we are being asked to vote a second time. This is not just undemocratic, it is anti-democratic. The people said NO. Our government hadn't the guts to stand up to the big boys in Brussels and ask for a new treaty. Bullying just won't work, boys. Empty promises won't convince us either. Finally, why not give the citizens of Europe the chance to vote. If the majority of countries voted for the LT, we would have no problem accepting that. But the governments refuse to do so, because they know it would be defeated. People of Ireland, vote NO again.

Julien Frisch said...

@VNTL

That is the idea of democracy: You vote once for something, and then it has to stay forever like this.

Imagine a candidate running for one election and losing would run a second time - that never happens in a democracy...

Panta Rei said...

I believe I told this story here before...
but in light of what VNTL says:

http://ceolas.net/#eu7x

An Irish Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults



The Happy Family


Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
"So", said Daddy Brusselsprout "Let's all go for a picnic!"
"No", said Aunt Erin, "I don't want to".
Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
Oh yes they did?
Oh no they didn't!
Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket....


Kids, we'll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!
.

citizen of Europe said...

(VNTL:) "Not one word of the treaty has changed, not one, and we are being asked to vote a second time. ... This is not just undemocratic, it is anti-democratic." - Maybe I am mistaken but I believe that it is not undemocratic. After certain time, the same question can be submitted again to the voters - at least the referendum about accessing Norway to the EC/EU was held three times (and the question was esentially the same, wasn't it?)

(VNTL:) "People of Ireland, vote NO again." - It would couse a crisis, but maybe the EU needs some crisis now.

Anonymous said...

It is the Federalisation of Europe. Much like what we (I am a US citizen) have in the USA. Each nation, or member state, will be subserviant to the new EU. This will be good for some of you and maybe not so good for some others. What we know for certain is that the EU will direct all member states' agriculture policy, fisheries, immigration, and asylum / refugee policy. This I read in the official government supplied Lisbon Treaty mailings. The Dáil will no longer have the authority to make policy or law in these areas. Soon, to visit Ireland I will have to procure a visa from Brussels. Tourism is already down, but it will be up to Brussels to decide who is allowed to enter and remain in your country and not your own national government. Your national parliaments will be required to serve the interests of the European State, which they appear to be doing quite well.

The Lisbon Treaty makes all citizens of member states, first and foremost, European citizens, with all the rights and obligations that entails. It gives the new EU State the power to directly tax its citizens. It gives the new EU the power to go to war. All laws of the member states must be in agreement with EU laws. The European Community will cease to exist and in it's place will be the "Untied States of Europe" (USE or EUSSR if you prefer). It won't be long until you will be required to give up your national passports and carry an EU one instead. Ireland will be relagated to the status within the the new EU as that of my home state within the USA, Wisconsin. I find it odd that such a new Nation State such as the Republic of Ireland would cede nearly all its soverign rights to a Federal Union not even 100 years after winning its freedom from a Monarchal Union, and bring all the other soon to be former Nation States with it, up or down depending on where you stand.
The main difference that I can see between the pending new, federal EU is that law-making will be done primarly by appointed bureaucrats instead of elected representatives.

citizen of Europe said...

Anonymous:
"Each nation, or member state, will be subserviant to the new EU."
-
You exaggerate.

"Your national parliaments will be required to serve the interests of the European State"
-
It will not be so, I assume (whose interest will be the "interests of the European State" if all legislative acts will have to pass through the Council compound of the member states' governments representatives?).

"The Lisbon Treaty makes all citizens of member states, first and foremost, European citizens"
-
The EU citizenship is a nonsense. The EU is not and will not be under the Lisbon Treaty a state but an international organization and no international organization can have its citizenship. The European citizenship is merely symbolic (a symbolical roofing of all citizenships of the members), whatever legal obligation is derived only by a citizenship of some member state of the community.

"or EUSSR if you prefer"
-
Your words are now like words of some anti-European activist of eastern Europe.

"I find it odd that such a new Nation State such as the Republic of Ireland would cede nearly all its soverign rights to a Federal Union not even 100 years after winning its freedom from a Monarchal Union, and bring all the other soon to be former Nation States with it, up or down depending on where you stand."
-
Then explain to me why colonies newly liberated from the same (!) "Monarchal Union" succumbed to another new union and remained not free and independent.

"The main difference that I can see between the pending new, federal EU is that law-making will be done primarly by appointed bureaucrats instead of elected representatives."
-
The Lisbon Treaty does not establish the federal EU, at least if we consider a standard federation and not a failed pseudo-federation. But your remark is now (at last) correct: the EU extremely lacks the democracy - that is the reason why the post-Lisbon EU cannot be considered a federation (but if you realize that the EU is essentially an international organization, you will not be so surprised over the mentioned lack of democracy because there is no democracy in international/intergovernmental organizations as a rule).

Generally, I can agree with you that the current direction of the European unification is bad (but contingent on historical circumstances and history is history being not able to be changed) but all your comment sound like an idea of federation in Europe (or indeed federation at all) is something wrong. Are you even sorry about arising the North American federal union and do you want it to be dissolved (Wisconsin to be "free")?
I do not like that you write about the EU after the Lisbon Treaty as a federation. In current European circumstances, a federation is the same as Europe-wide democracy and real federal institutions (not quasi-federal and in fact intergovernmental) and it will not come into existence with the treaty.

Kev said...

The Lisbon Treaty is the EU Constitution, which creates a EU Nation-State out of an organisation of Nation States. The old Nation States will then be states, like Provinces in Canada, or like states in the USA. That's great if EU legistlation is to your liking, but not so great if it's not. For example, I don't like paying taxes that go to support wars that I disagree with along with the majority of citizens in my state. But my state cannot make foreign policy. From what I've read, this is the direction that the EU is moving and the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution will bring it much farther along.

The post Lisbon EU will directly govern its (no longer Irelands, France's, Great Britain's, etc.) international waters including fisheries, it's common land including agriculture, and control it's, not Ireland's, or France's borders and immigration policy, including asylum and refugee seakers. The EU will direct refugees to the states that it sees as able to take them, regardless of what the citizens living in that state feel about it. Ireland, and all member states will have a diminished role in deciding foreign policy and the EU will direct foreign policy that member states must support. It's a whole new ball of wax quite different from the pre-Nice and post-Nice EU. It will no longer be a gathering of Nation States on an equal or less than equal status. It will in fact, be a Nation State unto itself, with everyone contained within it's borders, citizens, whether they want it or not. Now some of you might enjoy living in a very large country much like my own. But then again, even with the common language and culture in the USA, there are more than several secession movements, including Hawai'i, Vermont, and Texas (which I wouldn't mind ceding back to Mexico ;). The last time secession was tried by the states, it brought about the Civil War. I'm fairly certain that if a state, in your soon to be new EU or my USA wanted out and declared such, the troops would be sent in and the garrisons built.
The Lisbon Treaty, if it goes through, will be the last time you get to vote yea or nea on the structure of the EU. If Lisbon (Constitution) goes through, the the new EU State will have the authority, granted by you and everyone who votes yes, to, in future, make it's own decisions, without any referenda of its citizens, about its structure, law making powers, whether or not it goes to war, trade policy, UN positions, etc.