Monday, November 17, 2008

Constitutional matters

According to RTE News there may well a decision about a second referendum in Ireland before the European Council meeting in December, presumably as the Irish government does not want to be the whipping boy yet again for the colleagues in the Council.

According to a new poll there is some hope for the government if you read the figures the way they might want to.
The TNS/mrbi poll in tomorrow's Irish Times asked voters if they would they vote Yes or No in another referendum if the Treaty was modified to allow Ireland retain its EU Commissioner and if concerns on neutrality, abortion and taxation were clarified in special declarations.

The result was 43% said Yes; 39% said No and 19% said they did not know.

When the 'Don't Knows' are eliminated the result gives a slightly bigger margin to supporters of the Treaty.

The Yes vote without the 'Don't Knows' is 52.5% with 47.5% for the No vote.

In the referendum last June, 53.4% voted to reject the treaty, while 46.6% voted in favour.
This is known as clutching at straws. In the first place, eliminating the Don't knows is always a bit tricky as one has not idea why somebody may have given that answer and how that attitude might change by the time the referendum rolls around again.

In the second place, by now it has become quite clear that special declarations do not have the same force as articles in the treaty, therefore their appearance on some very crucial subjects, like neutrality and taxation, does not guarantee anything and, I am sure, the no campaign will make much of that.

Thirdly, those declarations are not guaranteed. The one on abortion, for instance, is bound to stir up trouble in Poland, where the Catholic Church and related organizations have been campaigning against further integration into the EU (as if they could stop it) on that issue and a few other social ones.

Fourthly, there may well be other reasons for an Irish no. It seems odd to me that the Irish people might not get a little angry that, for the second time, they have been told to vote again on an EU treaty, as if their first vote was not quite good enough. (It isn't, of course, because it went the wrong way but that is going to be hard to explain.)

So, there is all to play for. It is unlikely that a second referendum will be called before next autumn when the European elections are out of the way.

While we are on the subject of constitutions, let me make a quick comment about a website, whose supporters infest various forums from time to time telling us all to vote for a Free Europe. As I said on the forum, I consider this sort of thing to be trolling. I have answered once, explaining that the Bruges Group does not believe in any constitution for Europe, no matter who supports it (one of the arguments used is that Vaclav Klaus has expressed his approval). This has clearly not worked.

I checked out the website and, for the first and last time, shall write about it. If its acolytes want to get involved in a discussion from time to time, that is fine with me. If they intend to interrupt other discussions by advertising their site, their comments shall be deleted.

Free Europe was a private initiative by Carl-Johan Westholm, "PhD in political science, businessman, former CEO of the Swedish Federation of Private Enterprises (Företagarna) and of the Swedish Federation of Trade (Svensk Handel)" who has been sufficiently disgusted by the shenanigans around the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty to decide to do something about it.

What he decided to do was to set up this site and on it outline his ideas of what a free European constitution might be, inviting people to vote for it and to link to the site. Thus, he explained not unreasonably, everyone can take part in a discussion about the future of Europe, which he carefully describes as a geographical concept. On the whole this is more of a real dialogue or discussion than the fragrant Margot's efforts.

OK, I have now linked to it and I have read the material. I have read through his proposed Constitution for a Free Europe:

Constitution for Free Europe

1. Europe is a geographical concept, and European is as such not necessarily good or bad.
2. Free Europe means human development in its richest diversity and is therefore good.

Free Europe means for Europeans:
3. Freedom for individuals and clear limits for politicians and bureaucrats.
4. Civil rights for all citizens in Europe.
5. Freedom of contract, to create, to work, trade and invest in all Europe for all Europeans.

Free Europe means for European states:
6. Every government and national parliament has the right to self-determination of taxes, subsidies and laws.
7. No taxation power for the EU.
8. Decisions in the EU should be made by agreements between governments. Delegation of mational legislative power to EU institutions is possible; withdrawal of such powers, both in specific cases and generally is equally possible.
9. Sending tax-payer’s money from one part of Europe to another is a matter solely for the states or regions involved.
10. Free Europe promotes human development in its richest diversity worldwide.

There is nothing terribly wrong with any of those ideas, though I do find the notion of promoting human development in its richest diversity worldwide slightly odd, not to say incomprehensible. But there is nothing particularly right there. I would not advise anyone to support or to oppose this initiative. There seems no particular point to it. Of course, it is hard to work out what one can do to prevent the creation of the European state, given that it is already far advanced. But is there any evidence whatsoever that a collection of well-meaning, "motherhood and apple-pie" ideas for a European constitution, which is, in itself, the wrong way of going about things, will achieve anything?

As I said at the beginning: I shall welcome reasonable discussion but any silly and automatic links will be deleted.


Kassandra Troy said...

I have long been hesitant to support Free Europe, without ever giving too much thought to the cognitive dissonance their statements never fail to trigger. Europe, as it stands, has become (or perhaps always was) an unprincipled, post-democratic, post-modern piece of pragmatism that has no use for its citizens or their liberty. It is a throwback to the time when Bismarck played empire, a plaything for political elites whose prestige is troubled by Pax Americana. But at least America stands for the Philosophy of Liberty, a chance that Europe passed up when they ditched their own laws to push the 'constitution' redux down our throats. Nuke the entire fascist project and start over, this time respecting a few basic philosophical principles.
PS If I can find a place on the Free Europe site to drop some comments, I will certainly inform them of the above.

Helen said...

Don't sit on the fence, Cassandra, will you? ;-)

The main thing is that, politically speaking, there is no such thing as Europe and any attempt to create it will end up with the sort of cockamainie structure we have.