Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ireland, the European Union and the Freemasons

European politics have always bewildered Americans, although I suppose it's no less perplexing to Europeans to keep track of our 50 statewide races, political perfidy, and regional shenanigans. Still, the European Union added an odd layer of twists over the top of Europe's already fractious, multi-party alliances and feuds.

The EU has made changes to its overarching constitution with a document known as the Lisbon Treaty, and the changes must be ratified by every nation in the Union in order to pass. In most countries, that was a rubber stamp with little or no public input. The Netherlands and France held referendum votes to pretend they were taking the pulse of their population - both received "NO" majorities at the polls, but Dutch and French officials knew what was "best" and ratified the Treaty anyway over the pesky, non-binding will of their own people.

Tomorrow, it comes down to Ireland.

It seems that tiny Ireland has a provision in its own constitution that requires the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified by a vote of the people. It is apparently the only country in the EU that has such a provision. And while Ireland has benefitted immeasurably from its membership in the EU (zooming from being one of the poorest member nations to the second richest after Luxembourg), there is a chance that out of 350,000 voters, the fate of the entire EU's constitution will come down to a few thousand Irish voters, and who bothers to show up at the polls on June 12th. The EU requires a unanimous vote of its members to ratify constitutional changes, and Ireland is bound by its own constitution to bow to the will of its voters (What a concept!). Latest polling figures are Yes 41%, No 33%, Undecided 26%. But similar numbers in another referendum in 2001 wound up going to the "No" side, so there are some who are very nervous.

Most labor unions and political parties are in favor of the Lisbon Treaty, but the No side has a few powerful, or at least noisy, friends. Sinn Fein is the only serious political party on the No side, along with a couple of multi-millionaire Eurosceptics. Ruth Dudley Edwards writes in today's Spectator online:

I haven’t seen so many confusing posters since Beirut in the early 1990s. They are layered on every lamppost in Dublin. The Yes lobby’s contributions are pious and vacuous and unwisely have photographs of politicians – an unpopular group at the moment. ‘Europe. Let’s be at the heart of it’ urges the Fine Gael offering, which features the EPP-ED cute little logo of stars inside a heart. ‘Good for Ireland Good for Europe’ say Fianna Fail. ‘Vote Yes for jobs, the economy and Ireland’s future’ beg the Irish Business and Employers Federation.

The No stuff is much more fun, emanating as it does from innumerable mostly obscure groups many of which hate each other: Sinn Fein (‘People died for your freedom. Don’t throw it away’) and the capitalist-backed Libertas (‘Keep Ireland strong in Europe. Vote No) are on non-speak(ing terms with each other). The messages are pitched at a wide range of constituencies: ‘Lisbon It’ll cost you’; ‘Follow the French and Dutch. Vote No’, and my favourite, which features three monkeys: ‘The new EU – won’t see you, won’t hear you, won’t speak to you’.

An unnamed taxpayer has funded newspaper advertisements denouncing the treaty as ‘God-excluding foolish Freemason determined.’


Natch. Of course we're behind it all.

4 comments:

Timothy Bonney said...

How come I didn't get the memo that we are interfering in Irish politics? Must have missed the world domination meeting this month. ;-)

Chris Hodapp said...

Miss one meeting, ya miss a lot...

Rui Bandeira said...

Br. Chris:

Allow mw to correct one serious imprecision in your post. You wrote:

The EU has made changes to its overarching constitution with a document known as the Lisbon Treaty, and the changes must be ratified by every nation in the Union in order to pass. In most countries, that was a rubber stamp with little or no public input. The Netherlands and France held referendum votes to pretend they were taking the pulse of their population - both received "NO" majorities at the polls, but Dutch and French officials knew what was "best" and ratified the Treaty anyway over the pesky, non-binding will of their own people.

It is not so!

In the turn of the millennium, EU created a commission, presided by the former French President ValĂ©ry Giscard d’Estaing, and with membership of social and political representatives of all EU States, to study and present a project to reform the decision rules in the EU. It was – it is! – absolutely necessary, because the rules in use (mainly and roughly: all decisions must have unanimous agreement of all EU States) were created when EU had only 6 States. Then, there were already 15 and EU was preparing to grow to the present number of 27 European States (and more are asking to join…). Unanimous decisions by 6 is sometimes hard. Unanimous decisions by 27 or more is almost impossible…

The question was that Mr.Giscard d’Estaing’s commission went far beyond what was asked and presented a project of CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY, by which the Member States would agree in establishing a European Constitution. That was by many considered the seed for a future creation of the United States of Europe…

Being such an important change, virtually all the EU States decided to organize referendums. The European Constitution needed to be approved by the peoples of all EU States (naturally).

Early in the referendums process, the Dutch and the French (remember Giscard d’Estaing is a former French President) voted NO. With these votes, the project of the Constitutional Treaty was – of course! – abandoned.

The initial problem, though, remained: it was needed to reform the decision rules in the EU or the EU simply wouldn’t be able to take a single really important decision, being almost impossible a 27 state unanimity.

That is what Lisbon Traty is about. By the Lisbon Treaty rules, unanimous votes won’t be no longer required, only reinforced double majority: 60 % of the votes of the EU States representing at least 60 % of the EU population.

It was not easy to achieve the agreement. It was hard to agree on the number of votes each State will dispose. This was necessary to avoid that the Big Three States (Germany, Grance, Great Britain) and the three Medium States (Poland, Spain and Italy) – which would join 60 % of EU population – would impose any decision to the other more than 20 States. The trick was to give each State a number of votes that makes impossible that these 6 States alone reach 60 % of the votes, not allowing that the Big and Medium States impose three interests to the more than 20 others, but not allowing any decision to be taken AGAINST all this 6 States (because without all of the them, never will be get 60 % of EU population).

This is (roughly – very roughly) what the Lisbon Treaty is about. Because this change of rules doesn’t involve the creation of a new Federation, it was considered it could be ratified by the normal ratification process (Parliament and Chief of State approval). Only Ireland, by its Constitution rules needs to organize a referendum.

Excuse me for the long explanation.

Rui Bandeira
P:. M:. of Loja Mestre Affonso Domingues (Portugal)
http://a-partir-pedra.blogspot.com (A Partir Pedra)

JasonJ said...

Ireland votes "NO" 53.4% to 46.6%.

In the end, I'm not sure it matters. Since I was a kid, my Baptist ministers have been pointing to the EU as the Beast of Revelation with the Anti-Christ as its head.

Whatever happens, us Americans may have to get used to some changes. No longer the only big kid on the block, we now have to share the world's playground with the EU, China, India, and even Russia, while fighting off the terrorist bullies.