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Ireland’s Key Interests Unprotected in Treaty

23 April, 2008

Speaking during these evenings Dáil debate on 28th Amendment to the Constitution Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Martin Ferris TD noted that the governments claims that Ireland's "key interests" are protected does not stand up to scrutiny.

Deputy Ferris said:

"When questioned about the Lisbon Treaty government claims that Ireland's "key interests" are protected. Surely that will not be the case if this state has less power to prevent measures which may be inimical to its interests from going through.

"There have already been instances where Ireland's key interests have been damaged because policy in key areas has been set by Brussels.

"I refer to fishing because it is a prime example of a natural resource that was basically surrendered by this state following decades of earlier neglect when countries like Norway were making fishing one of the main stays of their economy. It is an example of how sovereignty was surrendered to Brussels and how Brussels through the Common Fisheries Policy exploited our fisheries and many believe is currently planning their virtual closure.

"Farmers, who have traditionally been among the strongest proponents of further empowering the EU have become increasingly concerned over the consequences of surrendering more power to Brussels.

"There are real concerns over what will take place in the WTO negotiations in Geneva. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, is prepared to accede to the demands of other trading blocs for concessions that will mean that entire sectors of farming in Europe will be unsustainable in the face of imports from Brazil, New Zealand and elsewhere.

"This could also undermine the reformed CAP. If that happens it will mean that farmers were misled in 2003 when they were effectively promised that agreement to decoupling and thus allowing the EU to meet its promise to move away from production subsidies, that the CAP would be safe from any future attack at the WTO. That promise has been reneged on despite the concerns and objections of member states.

"The Government and the other parties here are desperate to reassure farmers that the WTO has nothing to do with the proposal embodied in the Treaty. Of course it has, and nowhere more explicitly than in Article 2 which proposes to give the Commission exclusive competence over international trade agreements. Therefore, if Lisbon was currently in effect, and if Mandelson had the qualified majority support then there would be nothing that Ireland or France, if in a minority could do about it.

"What this illustrates in relation to the current debate is that when Irish vital interests are at stake that the Irish Government will not in fact have the power to prevent measures inimical to those interests from proceeding. With no Commissioner for 5 years out of 15 and no veto and with exclusive competence for international trade agreements given to the Commission the Commission will be better able to implement decisions that damage vital areas of our economy and we will be able to do nothing to prevent it.

"While the Yes side maintains the fiction that the Commission's position at the WTO is somehow distinct from the way in which the Commission adopts that position, they are well aware that those directly involved in farming and fishing will indeed be taking into account such issues when deciding how to vote.

"People from all political viewpoints, and all parts of the country and from all sorts of backgrounds realise the implications that Lisbon will have and they will make their voice heard. Hopefully that will be sufficient to defeat the Treaty." CRÍOCH

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