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Government continue to mislead public on EU Reform Treaty - McDonald

2 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou has today described the newly launched government public information EU Reform Treaty website as a slap in the face for democracy.


The Dublin MEP said:


“Since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in December of last year Sinn Féin has called on government to engage in a robust, mature and informed campaign debate. In a meeting of the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee I made the demand of European Affairs Minister Dick Roche that the government’s public information campaign be informed and balanced.


“Clearly these demands have fallen on deaf ears. Instead government is tactically initiating an alarmist and scaremongering campaign with no fact or content on what the Reform Treaty means in tangible terms for the national interest. This is a shocking attack on democracy, and to be frank an insult to the Irish people and an indictment of this government’s attitude to the electorate.


“Minister Ahern in his statement of New Years Eve entitled, 2008 – An Important Year for Ireland in Europe, said that ‘No-one who claims to be pro-European could logically reject a Treaty that will provide for a better European Union.’ That is an appallingly biased anti democratic statement to make. To critically engage with Europe is not anti-European. It is a mature, responsible approach. Perhaps not recognisable traits to a government who got re-elected on reckless promises it knew could never be delivered upon.


“Minister Ahern then goes on to make a number of additional statements, with no supporting fact or content. For example he says the Reform Treaty will make the Union even more democratic and responsive to the needs of our citizens by giving a bigger role to the Oireachtas and to the European Parliament. Naturally he does not explain how this will happen. Why, because it is simply not true.


“The Lisbon Treaty contains the most substantial institutional and procedural changes to the structure and operation of the European Union since its foundation. The Treaty also contains the most substantial transfer of powers from member states to the European Council and Commission to date.


“It gives 105 new competences to the European Union and a further 68 areas which will move from consensus decision making at the European Council to majority voting.


“In order to make some comparison, the Treaty of Nice included the loss of vetoes in 46 areas; Amsterdam in 24 areas; Maastricht in 30 areas and the Single European Act in 12 areas. Even the treaty of Rome, the EU’s foundation treaty only contained 38 areas.


“There are huge concerns at the scale and range of this proposed transfer of powers.

Possibly more significant and troubling than the large-scale transfer of powers is the inclusion of 8 Passerelle Clauses. These clauses represent one of the most undemocratic elements of the Treaty and will allow for decision making in the Council to be altered from unanimity to qualified majority in matters such as Common Foreign and Security Policy and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, without recourse to parliaments or referenda.


“The new powers to be given to member state parliaments are limited and totally insignificant in comparison with the powers transferred to the European Council and Commission. Critically the European Parliament will not have the power to initiate legislation, nor to amend legislation.   Instead what is being proposed is what is deceptively being called “co-decision”. This is a cumbersome and lengthy procedure of bargaining between the European Parliament and the Commission and Council. 


“In short these ‘new’ national powers are a sop and will have no substantive impact on European decision making on key policy areas. The fact is the whole area of power transfer in the Reform Treaty copper fastens the dominance of the larger states and removes Ireland’s ability to democratically reject laws that are not in our interests. 


“It is hugely disappointing that government has thrown the national interest and democracy to the wind. However that said it is no surprise. It is impossible to defend the indefensible. Government clearly realise this and have tactically chosen to pursue an alarmist and content empty campaign. Alternatively Sinn Féin intends to take ownership of this referendum, engaging with people the length and breadth of the country on the content of this Treaty. If government refuse to engage in a mature and robust debate on the future of Europe, Sinn Féin is happy to take up the mantle.” CRÍOCH


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