Episode 1 Trailer – for normal people.
Cooperation, integration, climate change, energy security, and a step-by-step approach towards the empire principle:
Lisbon Treaty: Episode 1 highlights…
The Treaty of Lisbon gets signed in Lisbon on 13 December 2007, and the stated objectives are:
- Increase qualified majority voting in the EU Council
- Increase involvement of the European Parliament in the legislative process
- Reduce the number of commissioners
- Create a President of the European Council
- Create a High Representative for Foreign Affairs to present a united position on EU policies
- Make the Union’s human rights charter, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding
- Enhance the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union
Various European states ratify the treaty and expectations are running high in Brussels – 500 million people are tuned in and watching attentively. The plot is running smoothly but then we’re hit with a twist! The Raymond Crotty case from the late 80s forces the Irish Government to submit the treaty to the people – A country of just over 4 million suddenly hold the key and a referendum must be held!
A subtle sub-plot is ticking away in the background, hints of a new world order and the North American Alliance keep the audience guessing – a red herring or integral to the story?
Tensions start to rise and the referendum is set for 12th June 2008.
The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps take their positions and battle ensues. Amongst other things the opposition argue that it will centralise the EU and weaken democracy by moving power away from national electorates, threaten workers rights, abortion law and taxation policies, and undermine Irish neutrality. Part of the Irish ‘No’ campaign even put forward a theme tune:
We’re bombarded with shots from one camp to another as strategies unfold. The ‘Yes’ campaign appear to be holding the high ground despite some concerted efforts from the ‘opposition’, but in a surprise ending episode 1 finishes with the Irish electorate voting ‘NO’.
On the edge of our seats, closing images of stunned faces leave you thinking ‘this isn’t over yet’ – the scene is set for further action. (The script writers return to the drawing board – the audience is fascinated to see what will happen next!)
Closing credits Episode 1
Lisbon Treaty: Episode 2
Signs of a revote start to appear in July 2008, and then we’re fast-forwarded to December 2008:
The powers that be have analysed the result, and indicate there will be a repeat referendum in October 2009. (A sort of producers discretion that allows a change of script – remember the JR Ewing resurrection?).
But all is not as it seems – the Irish government have been to Brussels and the story is taking a turn.
Legal guarantees add a new dimension.
[Cut to the legal guarantees scene]:
“The Decision of the 27 EU Heads of States or Government agreed at the June European Council that Ireland’s legal guarantees will constitute an international agreement, to take effect on the date of entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. This will be legally binding under international law and will be registered with the United Nations.
If the Lisbon Treaty is approved by all EU Member States, including by Ireland in a further referendum and subsequently enters into force, the Decision will be annexed to the Treaties at the time of the conclusion of the next accession treaty for a new Member State. Protocols form an integral part of the Treaties to which they are annexed and have the same legal status as the Treaties themselves.”
The Brussels angle gives us the broader picture:
and then we get other reactions:
The plot moves on regardless, and a second referendum is set for 2nd October 2009.
And then, just when you think you know what is happening, a new twist appears (Prison Break anyone?):
2nd September 2009: John Burke, a Co Tipperary cattleman tells a High Court judge he intends to challenge the legality of the Government’s new referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. He gets granted leave to serve short notice on the Taoiseach, Justice Minister and the State of his intended challenge.
Mr Burke tells the judge he is seeking a judicial review of the Government’s October 2 referendum on the simple grounds that ‘No’ means ‘No’. He adds that no written evidence of legal changes to the Treaty have been put before the electorate. He says there have been televised handshakes between the Taoiseach and his counterparts in the rest of Europe — but no presentation of documentation guaranteeing change.
In short, Mr Burke is seeking to strike down the forthcoming Lisbon II referendum, and have it declared as unconstitutional!
Is this a tricky corner, or will a bit of sharp manouevering side-step the problem…?
[Cut to the ads] – stay tuned, make a cuppa, and hold (don’t hold?) your breath…
3rd September 2009: John Burke loses his High Court bid to prevent the second referendum. Lawyers for the State argued that the proposal to be put to the people is ‘significantly different’, and that it should be up to the people to decide upon.
Mr Justice Liam McKechnie agrees, and the case is dismissed.
Slick move! (although I must have missed the bit where they explained what those significant differences are, and we’re left wondering if the UK for example are being kept in the dark!)
Moving on, and you’ve got to stay sharp to keep up with the fast talking, the story switches to the area of national employment, “Clearly, the way it’s going to affect employment in Ireland is that by having a Lisbon Treaty passed we’ll have more effective decision making in all aspects of both Council, Parliament and Commission in terms of their right of initiative.”
Ok, that makes sense, but if i’d missed it i’d have been totally lost!
I’m sort of assuming now that the script writers will have to introduce black and white copies of the legal guarantees into the next treaty guide, will they? won’t they? will the audience edge towards disbelief if they don’t? ah the anticipation!
Can’t wait for the next bit, and oh I do enjoy a good yarn – especially when it’s hard to work out who’s the good guys and who’s the bad guys, and even better when it’s the stuff of empires!
Ok, fun, but to be fair i guess I should state my own position: I’m currently in the don’t know camp.
My own perspective goes beyond what is reported and communicated in Ireland, more relevant is what I hear and see in Europe as a whole. I believe the idea of a ‘European Empire’ is a real one, and that Ireland simply has to decide whether it wants to be part of that empire or not. It holds advantages, disadvantages, risks and potential reward, and in reality no one has a looking-glass to tell us what it really means for the future. I think energy security is one of the key driving factors, and that many other elements currently taking precedent are secondary in the overall scheme of things.
We may be on the ‘edge of Europe’ in or out of the treaty, and I think we will have to be creative and inventive regardless (we’ve done it before, we can do it again, but one of the questions is whether we’ll find ourselves shackled or have some free rein?).
From a point of principle i’d be happier if ‘local’ politicians would just stand up and communicate the ideals, and give it to us as it is. I don’t see the point in legal guarantees if the treaty already protected Ireland in the first place (after all we were also encouraged to vote yes in the 1st referendum), and I suspect they are just a vehicle for ethically justifying a rerun on what is essentially the same treaty.
The ‘no’ campaign focussed on local arguments in the first ‘episode’ which forced the ‘yes’ side to defend their position based on the same issues. This moved the whole thing away from the primary objectives and prevented the electorate from getting closer to the core of things. In some ways this may have suited the supporters of the treaty as we’re well known for being ‘troublesome’ as soon as someone from outside starts telling us what is best!
However I also believe the Irish people are well able to make educated decisions if they are given clear, concise and relevant information in the first place.
In summary, I wonder if the ‘aura’ around the 2nd referendum will be just the same as the first, and I question whether i might end up voting in the wrong direction for what is questionably either the right or wrong reasons.
Update: All over now – no surprise ending. The yes side got it 2nd time round and there won’t be a repeat! I guess what it really means will become apparent over the coming years.