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Our common interest in the Irish referendum

2 October 2009

Our common interest in the Irish referendum

On 2nd October the Irish people will have the chance to express their views on the Lisbon Treaty, or on the European Constitution minus anthem and flag. It is commendable that the Irish, at least, have the right to speak out on this important treaty. This right has been denied us in our own different countries, in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, for fear of a rejection. At the same time it seems strange that, after the first referendum, in which a clear majority of the population of the Irish Republic voted against the treaty, a second referendum must follow. You would have thought that no was no, and not that any no must eventually be followed by a yes.

Dennis de Jong is leader of the SP group in the European Parliament. Søren Bo Søndergaard is leader of the Danish People’s Movement against the EU group in the European Parliament, and Eva-Britt Svensson of the Swedish Vänster (Left) Party group.

It is said by many Members of the European Parliament that the rejection of the treaty would have disastrous consequences. The whole of the EU would be paralysed. There is, moreover, no alternative to this treaty. And yet, we as Members of the European Parliament from three different member states wish to state that an Irish no would be in the interests of every member state, and of the EU as a whole.

Three examples. Firstly, the treaty represents a major step towards the militarisation of Europe, obliging member states to improve their military capacity, and giving the EU its own army, one which can be deployed outside EU territory. While no mention is made in this context of the United Nations, ties with NATO will be strengthened.

Secondly, the treaty establishes that free competition will always in the end take priority over social rights. If in the past we have seen the right to strike restricted and in some cases national labour agreements declared not to cover employees of foreign companies, this treaty will only reinforce such tendencies. The trade union movement has quite correctly demanded a legally binding protocol on social justice, a measure which would ensure that social achievements were not subordinated to the market. Such a protocol has not materialised. Instead, in June the European Council merely adopted a vague declaration aimed exclusively at massaging away the quite accurate anxieties of the Irish, but a declaration lacking any force. You might expect that now that the world is having to contend with the serious consequences of free and unbridled competition in the financial sector, governments would think twice before handing themselves over definitively to the free market. But no, nothing has been changed in the treaty: the market remains omnipotent.

Lastly, notwithstanding the absence of anthem or flag, with this treaty Europe will be transformed into a single state with a European President and, although the name has been changed, the introduction of a European Minister for Foreign Affairs. The member states will, in addition, lose their right of veto in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, traditionally the state’s fields of activity. This means that, for example in the area of criminal law a majority of member states will be able to adopt measures against the will of an individual country. Europe will come to be seen, in other words, as a state in itself, instead of the network of individyual states which it originally was.

We are convinced that a majority in our countries would have rejected this neoliberal and military plan for a Superstate. What is desirable are practical forms of cooperation. After an Irish no on 2nd October we would at last be able to discuss the forms of cooperation in Europe that might enjoy the support of the peoples of Europe. An open and transparent discussion could lead to a new ‘mini-treaty´ containing the posive elements from Lisbon. We can have a lively and constructive debate over the European Union only if the voter is listened to and taken seriously when it comes to historic decisions over European cooperation.

So please, Ireland, give us this chance!

This article appeared on 30th September in the Danish newspaper and the Swedish newspaper Liberala Nyhetsbyran.

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