12 reasons from European Commission Vice President Margot Wallström on why Ireland should pass the Treaty of Lisbon
1. First, the Lisbon Treaty will make the EU more democratic. How? In the first place,by giving more power to the people. For the first time, EU citizens will have the official right to petition the Commission to launch new initiatives. This puts real power in the hands of any citizen who can organise the support of just one million people in a significant number of EU countries.
2. The Lisbon Treaty also gives more power to members of national parliaments – including the TDs and Senators here. They will have greater powers to challenge any Commission proposal they consider goes against the principle of subsidiarity.
3. The Treaty also gives more power to Parliamentarians. The directly elected European Parliament will increase its law-making powers, because “co-decision” will be extended into new policy areas. So European elections will become even more important in deciding the future direction of policy-making.
4. The Lisbon Treaty will extend the rights of EU citizens by making the EU a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, and by giving legal force to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These include the right to life, to education, to freedom of thought, to equality before the law… and workers’ rights such as the right of collective bargaining and collective action.
So I don’t see how anyone can claim that the Lisbon Treaty undermines the rights of workers! This is not at all the case, as I see it.
5. The Lisbon Treaty will make it easier for the EU to make policy in areas that the public wants us to intervene: eg in areas like climate change and energy security. For the first time, these will explicitly become matters of EU responsibility. EU countries will be able to get their collective act together in cutting greenhouse gas emissions – and in talking with one voice to Russia and our other suppliers of gas and oil.
6. Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, the EU will be able to deliver results more effectively – not only on energy and climate change but in other key policy areas too – because it can take decisions more easily. This is because majority voting will become the general rule, rather than unanimity.
A Union of 27 countries can literally be paralysed by the unanimity requirement, because there will almost always be one member state opposed to one or another aspect of any given proposal.
7. However, unanimity will still be required in fields such as taxation– which I know are very sensitive matters for Ireland.In important areas of national sovereignty, the national veto will be kept.
8. The extension of majority voting into new areas will make Europe more secure – by enabling the EU to deal more efficiently with terrorism, cross-border crime, illegal immigration and human trafficking. But EU action on these matters will be taken under the democratic control of the European Parliament, which will take the decisions jointly with the Council of Ministers.
9. The Lisbon Treaty will make EU decision-making more transparent. The Council of Ministers will have to hold its meetings in public when enacting new EU policies or legislation.
I don’t know whether these meetings will make exciting television – but at least any interested citizen will be able to watch his or her own Government Minister taking European decisions.
It will no longer be possible to portray “Brussels” as an alien monster grabbing power from national governments!
On the contrary, people will more clearly see and judge how different Ministers balance their national interests with the interests of the whole of Europe.
10. Also for the sake of efficiency, a President of the Council will be elected for up to five years. This will give the EU a more stable system of leadershipthan the current six-monthly rotation.
11. The Lisbon Treaty will help the EU to act with greater unity on the world stage. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will also be the European Commissioner for External Relations.This will make it easier to ensure that our aid, trade, development and otherforeign policies all pull in the same direction.
12. Finally, the Lisbon Treaty ensures that defence remains a matter of national sovereignty, so that each Government is free to decide what forces, if any, it will commit to any particular operation. The Treaty willtherefore not compromise Ireland’s neutrality (nor Sweden’s).
Clearly, we live in a dangerous world, and EU governments see the need for a collective response to some security issues. For example, sending EU peacekeeping forces to some of the world’s trouble spots.
Chad and Darfur are cases in point, and Ireland has – I believe – taken a very active and honourable role in this EU action.
But Ireland’s Constitution states that it cannot join a common European defence arrangement unless it is approved by a separate referendum of the Irish people. So the bogeyman of a “militaristic EU” sweeping young Irish men and women off to war is a complete myth. Nothing in the Lisbon Treaty is going to touch the triple lock on the deployment of Irish peacekeepers.
Ladies and gentlemen, there you have my “douze points” on the Lisbon Treaty. The Reform Treaty