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EU Constitution

5.22.2005

It is slowly but surely rising up the agenda along with stem cell/aboriton and not before time. The new treaty codifiying structures within the EU is one of the biggest pieces of Irish diplomatic success since the Nuclear NPT in the sixties. However because its been sealed by Irish handling doesnt automatically qualify it for our support. There are a myriad of aspects to ratifying this treaty and a number of questions need to be considered in deciding its merits. BTW you can read/download it here.
Question 1: what does this new constitution mean for ireland and its sovereignty? this is a complex enough question to answer. any infringement on state sovereignty is a big issue for any electorate. consequently sinn fein have ardently opposed euro-expansion into 'sovereign territory'. The treaty is attempting to do a number of things in one go. First it must take account of how to run a 25 state EU currently run along the lines of a six-state body. Thus the introduction of QMV. What QMV does is remove to a degree the national veto in some areas and replace is with a majority of 15 state AND 65% of population represented.
This means more streamlined decisions by the council and less need to accommodate all points of view. However it can spell danger for small states who find that with a small proportion of population may become sidelined and railroaded along big-state interests. However since at least 15 states are needed it is likely that a balance will ensue and consensus be found. QMV looks good on paper but we have no idea how it will perform in practice, back stage deals are likely to ensue.
As is said the national veto is preserved in areas of defence, foreign policy and taxation. However these are the big three issues for the coming decades as an increasingly integrated EU will look to flex international muscle. Tax harmonisation has been on the agenda for years and the new eastern flat tax initiative will highlight the need for a common taxation policy in the EU to halt internal cannibalising and promote solid coherent competition. Talk of competition brings us to the second question.
Question 2: Do we want a more markets or more social basis?
The big EU trek has been a story of economic progress and integration among countries with similar social models (except UK and Ireland to a large extent). The mainland was more disposed to social democratic tax and spend social inclusion. This meant the EU was rarely troubled about social direction. Right and left argued but the public always had the last say. Now Europe has disintegrated slightly and the social consensus has broken into big government supporters and individual power supporters. The split is symptomatic of the spread of capitalism and the expansion to an Eastern Europe of different make up.
The choice for EU citizens is how to cope with a dichotomy of old and new Europe. The bastions of free capital eastward or the protective nannying of the west? This is no easy choice and eventually some synthesis will occur but what does the constitution allow?
This clash occurs between the rights in section II and the protocols in section III. The supporters claim that legally binding rights should ensure protection for all citizens and preservation of some social model. The detractors say in III the protocols unsure sweeping marketisation of the EU with the services directive only the tip of the iceberg. The UK reckons that the rights bill doesn’t interfere with their own domestic labour relations policies so we must believe that the status of section II is to be confirmed. It took 100 years for the US to act on the rights stipulated in the amendments. It oculd take us longer.
On the question of social Europe I think it is fair to recall this is a constitution and as such is a frame work. The laws will be made by those whom we elect. It is not the constitution which is pro market but the politicians. As I have said before one must vote for what one values.
Labour and De Rossa seem to believe a socialist vision of Europe is attainable through the provisions of the constitution. This is reassuring but as yet unsatisfactory. Little will be known about the new EU until ratification but we can be sure that competition will be the buzz word and many directive will issue to that effect. Europe will not cease to function as a champion of private enterprise and liberalisation of economies. It will also not cease large pork barrel payments to farmers and unfair trade agreements with poorer countries. Leading again to another question.
Question 3: What about EU abroad?
The EU will have a new permanent foreign minister; he shall be a vice president of the commission and also head the foreign ministers council. This means a more integrated EU approach to international relations will emerge, the national veto will also remain intact on foreign policy. The minister is a plus and a figure head for Europe. Expect a newer raised profile of the Brussels set abroad and a diminution of individual state duties. The EU foreign minister will not replace state relations but will have a great deal of clout.
However more important is EU policy on development. This is not enshrined in the constitution but has been demonstrated by Peter Mandelson recently. He slapped Tony on the wrist for going so far as to demand fair standards of trade for poorer countries, effectively siding with NGOs and the poor nations. This rebuke says a lot for the thinking in Brussels and also highlights the pressure that the EU is under to deliver local results to ensure support and survival. Things like fairness and development don’t cut political mustard.
Again I must say little in the constitution will change the behaviour of the EU towards trading partners nor hinder or secure a good deal for developing nations. The EU could take alead in development of states but instead opts for short term member interest and corporate lobbying.
the EU seems unlikely to promote fair access for outside states to local markets. this is hypocritical and to be honest its unfair. the constitution doesnt address it and it is unlikely our politicians will either.
I am undecided and I would dearly like all of you to think hard on the meaning of Europe for us. More questions exist and I shall bring them up in time. The first three are juicy and wen we see a direction we may begin to decide how to vote. Email and let me no how you are going to go. Or any comments and questions
Red Rover

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