Irish voters have overwhelmingly approved the European Union’s controversial Lisbon Treaty, a document that will forever change the dynamics of European (and potentially global) politics. The “yes” vote comes less than 18 months after Irish voters gave the “wrong” answer by rejecting the treaty in a first referendum.
According to the final results, 67.1 percent of Irish voters approved the treaty, while 32.9 percent voted “no.” Turnout in the three-million electorate was 58 percent.
During the past year, the Irish government has faced intense pressure from an irate European political establishment, which demanded a second referendum that would produce the “correct” answer. Dublin achieved the desired result by playing on public fears over Ireland’s faltering economy, which is expected to contract by a shocking 10 percent this year. It also warned that Ireland would be “pushed out” or “left behind” in Europe in the event of another “no” vote, a disconcerting prospect for a country traumatized by the second-highest unemployment rate in the EU.
Ireland, which accounts for 1 percent of the Union’s 500 million population, was the only one of the EU’s 27 member states to put the Lisbon Treaty to a public referendum. Twenty-four other EU countries quietly rubber-stamped the treaty in their parliaments, which has proved to be a far less risky route than direct democracy to get the document ratified. The leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic, the only two remaining holdouts, will now be induced to ratify the treaty as quickly as possible (the parliaments of both countries have already approved the treaty) so that the grand European project can proceed apace.
The Lisbon Treaty, also known as the Reform Treaty, is nearly identical to the European Constitution, a document that was soundly rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Among many other innovations, the 250-plus page Lisbon Treaty will establish a permanent EU president (Tony Blair?), a European foreign minister and a European Union diplomatic service. The agreement also paves the way for the covert creation of a European army by way of a mutual defense clause called Permanent Structured Cooperation.
Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty obligates EU nations to surrender their sovereignty in many areas to centralized decision-making; and it reduces national veto rights to allow more decisions to be made by majority voting instead of by unanimous consent.
The Lisbon Treaty is the stunning culmination of more than 50 years of European economic and political integration, a process that has resulted in the systematic erosion of democracy and democratic accountability in Europe.
The EU has its origins in the Treaty of Rome (1957), which gave birth to the European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC, also known as the “Common Market,” was a customs union. EEC member countries agreed to dismantle all tariff barriers over a 12-year transitional period, and over time a common tariff was also established for all products coming in from third countries.
The Single European Act (1987) extended the scope of the EEC to include not only the free circulation of goods, but also the free movement of persons, capital and services. The Act established a genuine common market, but it also codified European Political Cooperation, which was the forerunner of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
The fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the reunification of Germany (1990) led French President François Mitterrand, who feared a return of German hegemony, to search for a way to permanently anchor Germany within European institutions. Together with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was keen to relieve misgivings in Paris and London about a reunified Germany, Mitterrand worked to transform the whole of Europe into an all-encompassing union.
In 1989, an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) established monetary and economic union. In 1990, another IGC was called to study the constitution of a political union. Then, in 1992, following three years of closed-door debate which ignored public demands for more transparency, the Treaty of the European Union (also known as the Treaty of Maastricht) came into being.
The Maastricht Treaty modified the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act by moving far beyond the limits of a common market toward political union. The Maastricht Treaty also changed the official name of the EEC to the European Union.
The Maastricht Treaty created three pillars, one of which enables joint actions in foreign policy and military matters, and another one which enhances co-operation in the fight against crime. The Maastricht Treaty also established a European Central Bank (ECB), fixed exchange rates and introduced a single currency called the euro.
In 1998, the Treaty of Amsterdam modified parts of the Maastricht Treaty, again with no public participation. The main change introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty was the creation of a new position called the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. The treaty also provided the EU with a common security policy, including the gradual formulation of a common defence policy.
In 2001, the Treaty of Nice was designed (once again without public input) to reform the institutional structure of the EU, with a view toward eastward expansion.
Fast forward to 2009, and the stated aim of the Lisbon Treaty is to “complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam and by the Treaty of Nice with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of its action.”
Supporters of the Lisbon Treaty say its purpose is to cement European integration by “streamlining” decision making. But in its essence, the Lisbon Treaty, which has been called a “slow motion coup d’état,” is all about the centralization of political power by an unelected ruling clique in Brussels who desire to rule Europe free from the constraints of democracy.
The Lisbon Treaty also promotes European aspirations far beyond Europe, which is why Americans should take notice. Indeed, European globalists hope the Lisbon Treaty will transform the EU into a superpower capable of counter-balancing the United States in global affairs.
European strategists have long been frustrated by Europe’s inability to speak with one voice, a debilitating weakness that often neuters Europe’s economic and political weight on the global stage, especially vis-à-vis the United States. The Lisbon Treaty is designed to remedy this deficiency by imposing a European president and foreign minister at the top of the European edifice.
More specifically, the Lisbon Treaty is meant to avoid a repeat of European divisions in the lead up to the Iraq War, when France and Germany were frustrated in their attempts to present a unified European front to block the American invasion. At the time, a fair number of European countries broke ranks with France and Germany and joined the United States in a “coalition of the willing,” much to the anger of the Brussels elite.
By giving unelected EU bureaucrats jurisdiction over questions of war and peace, the Lisbon Treaty will usurp the national prerogatives of its member states on the use of military force. This will make it far more difficult for European allies to support the United States in unpopular wars in the future.
The Lisbon Treaty will push the EU in a direction that should be deeply disconcerting to Americans and Europeans alike. The Lisbon Treaty will make Europe more centralized and far less democratic than it already is. For transatlantic relations, this means that many foreign policy decisions that directly affect the United States, ranging from economics and trade to transatlantic cooperation on Islamic counter-terrorism, will increasingly be made by unelected (and often pathologically anti-American) bureaucrats in Brussels rather than by national governments.
The history of European integration is a textbook case in how a simple economic treaty can be gradually transformed into an all-encompassing non-democratic supranational federal leviathan. Indeed, the Lisbon Treaty should be a warning to Americans who dream of remaking the United States in Europe’s image.
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group