Afraid to put their case?

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has accused Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of running away from debate on the proposed European Constitution by failing to provide speakers for a conference. (conference details attached) Usually impeccable sources tell me that the conference minus FF and FG may be blogged live by a Slugger regular.

16 Speakers from across the EU examine content and implications of EU Constitution

Sinn Féin and our partners in the European Parliament, European United Left/Nordic Green Left, are holding a 2 day conference this weekend on the EU Constitution. The event brings together 16 speakers from across the EU including MEPs, NGOs, trade unionists and academics.

The event is free and open to the public.
Ireland & the EU Constitution
Irish Film Centre, Eustace St, Dublin
Date: 28th & 29th May

Saturday 28th

Registration: 9am

Session 1: 9.30: Whats new in the EU Constitution?
A table of academics look at the new elements of the Constitution
Steve McGiffen
Gerard McCann
Ailbhe Smyth

Session 2: 10.45: MEPs platform
Three MEPs make the case against the Constitution
Bairbre de Brun – Sinn Fein (GUE/NGL)
Esko Sepannen – Left Alliance Finland (GUE/NGL)
Bernat Joan – Left Republicans Catalonia (Greens/EFA)

Session 3: 12.30: For & Against the Constitution
A key note debate between two prominent MEPs each arguing opposing sides of the Constitution debate.
Speakers to be confirmed

Sunday 29th

Session 1: 10.45: Civil Society Against the Constitution
A platform of NGOs outline the case against the Constitution
Trade Unionists Against the Constitution (England)
Matthew McGregor: Centre for a Social Europe (England)
Roger Cole: Peace & Neutrality Alliance (Ireland)
Lilian Halls-French – European Feminist Initiative Against the Constitution
Claudio Meloni: Attac (Italy)

Sesion 2: 12.30: Another Europe is Possible
A panel of MEPs and commentators looking beyond the EU Constitution
Aengus O’Sondaigh TD Sinn Féin
Jonas Sjostedt MEP – Swedish Left Party (GUE/NGL)
Deirdre de Burca – Green Party (Ireland)

  • foreign correspondent

    I’m in favour of the E.U. constitution, being an instinctive pro E.U.-er, despite not having read it. Yes, I know that’s a terrible admission, but hands up, WHO has read the entire constitution and understood its implications before forming an opinion on it either way. Anyway, if the Sinners are against it, it must have something going for it 🙂

  • Occasional Commenter

    I have read the first 70 pages or so which is the main part. The other few hundred pages are things like the Euratom treaty and other detailed stuff which probably shouldn’t be in it in the first place.

    The more I read it the more against it I became.

    “x is against it, therefore I’m for it” is a nonsense argument. I see you had the smiley face, but simpler folk will take it as a reasonable argument.

  • Nathan

    The National Forum for Europe is the only outlet so far, which has proved its importance. Rather than restrict itself to Dublin as these conferences tend to do, it has toured the length and breath of the country and has engaged more Irish people than ever before. Little wonder then that this nationwide outlet has no shortage of delegates (incl. FF/FG) from across the political spectrum, who are more than willing to wrestle with the issues.

  • foreign correspondent

    OC: ‘The more I read it the more against it I became.’

    What did you read that you objected to?

  • Occasional Commenter

    National armies can be forced to fight for the EU against the countries wishes. The paragraphs are very carefully worded to create a first impression that it’s optional, but on closer inspection it’s clear that “multinational” forces have the option, but “national” forces do not. A multinational army might be created by France and Germany – these countries can then opt out of EU wars, but the UK and Ireland will not be able to.

    There are lots of other examples of unnecessary power grabs. For example, in my opinion the EU would be able to force the UK into the Euro using powers in this Constitution. It could control the UK economy to such an extent that the Pound has the same relationship with the Euro as Bank of Scotland notes have to the Bank of England notes – i.e. not independent at all.

  • foreign correspondent

    How could an E.U. wide army allow for France and Germany to opt out of some conflict that the UK and ROI could not opt out of?
    I do not think there is a risk of the EU becoming a militaristic and aggressive state, in the way that, IMO, the US has become. I think (hope?) European history will stop us going down that road.
    As for the euro, well I think the UK should join it, along with Sweden Denmark and the new E.U. countries. The euro works fine and is an eminently sensible idea.

  • Occasional Commenter

    It’s detailed in the Constitution. I’ll be back in 10 mins to explain when I’m actually on my lunch break 🙂

  • Occasional Commenter

    On the military issues, see this lonely comment I made in March for the relevant quotes from the Constitution on the requirement to make troops available for E.U. missions of all kinds. In that comment, I should have put a newline before ‘So you can opt …’ near the end.

  • Occasional Commenter

    I find it interesting, to say the least, that most of the pro-Constitution arguments amount to little more than attempting to negate the anti-Constitution arguments. Even if they were successful (which they’re not), they still haven’t actually given us a reason to vote Yes. The sensible approach is therefore to vote No until we can work out how we want the E.U. to develop.

    The other arguments given are along the lines of:

    – We need this Constitution to enable us to work with 25 members

    We were told that about the Nice treaty. So were they lying then or are they lying now?

    – A No vote is a vote to leave the E.U.

    If so will they disband the E.U. when it’s rejected? No they won’t and this claim will have been shown to be a lie. The question is whether to adopt this particular version of this Constitution at this particular time. The E.U. will continue regardless.

    – The E.U. has brought peace

    Only 50 years so far, while Europe was relatively peaceful for a century after Napoleon with no E.U. . My fear is that tying everyone together will increase tensions, not decrease them.

    – We need to remove vetos so we can get decisions made between 25 states

    The states of Europe have got along fine for millenia without the need for central decisions. The states will just agree to disagree if they can’t decide. Do we really need a uniform shape of banana?

  • foreign correspondent

    Hmm. Having look at that link it very possibly does threaten the neutrality of member states of the E.U. You may be right on that.
    But do you think there is a danger of the E.U. embarking on wars of agression and member states being forced to participate. I don’t see any member-country or any major political grouping in the E.U. trying that on… Of course I suppose that doesn’t exclude that arising in the future; I admit that to believe in the E.U. becoming a real state with all the trappings is an act of faith. But I think it can work and is worth the risk, that’s all.
    My earlier comment about if Sinn Fein are against it then it must have something going for it was tongue in cheek. Why are they against it, though, I wonder?

  • Occasional Commenter

    f c,
    I’m not sure of SF’s reasons. Perhaps it’s because a United Ireland would be meaningless if these islands are just to be administrative regions or provinces of the E.U. . The E.U. might make NI, England, Scotland, Wales, Leinster, Connaught and Munster (dunno about the 3 other Ulster counties) separate provinces or something. i.e. more partition not less!

    I can easily see the E.U. engaging in wars over oil and the likes. And whether the E.U. starts it, or just claims to be defending the Iraqis/Iranians or whatever, I still don’t want to see Irish or UK troops forced into it.

    On a different note, on the whole, the E.U. certainly hasn’t made a good name for itself, for example with fisheries and agriculture and business red-tape. I see no reason why the E.U. couldn’t simply be more patient and demonstrate it’s worth with some good old-fashioned competent administration. When it’s got the genuine support and trust of the people (on a par with their support for their own nation) then we can revisit the issue of what to do next. They need to be held accountable – a vote No is the only way they will listen.

  • Alan

    Hold on a moment, let’s look at the whole document. Its available at

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/21_07_04cg00086.en04.pdf

    There is no way that anyone is getting dragged into wars without the agreement of their nation state. Forget OC’s cherry picking and read the substance :-

    *European decisions on the implementation of the common security and defence policy, including those initiating a mission as referred to in this Article, shall be adopted by the Council acting unanimously.*

    That word *unanimous* negates all the frantic anti-eu nonsense above. It is almost as bad as the deliberate misinterpretation of the constitution by Mary-Lou in *The Village* a while ago.

    Read the Constitution, pleeeeeeeeze! Don’t let other people pull the wool over your eyes.

    OC – go read some European history, particularly the bit about the Franco-Prussian War and the Crimea.

  • euinni

    I wonder who SF was expecting from FF and FG to come to their conference. Who are they going to be replaced with.

  • Occasional Commenter

    Alan,
    Some good points. I have read a lot of history but my memory wasn’t perfect – sorry about that guys. However, the Crimean War was mostly fought outside what is now the E.U. and it was against Russia, which is not in the E.U. either.

    I was talking about wars between E.U. states, which are the only wars relevant when discussing whether the E.U. has brought peace.

    That leaves you with the Franco-Prussian war, which was 55 years after Waterloo.

    Thanks for reminding me of those wars, but I think I can still say that there have been long periods (50+ years) of time where there were no wars between E.U. states. The Franco-Prussian war lasted less than a year – so if you ignore it I think we have 99 years up to 1914 of peace between states within the current E.U. border.

    > Read the Constitution, pleeeeeeeeze! Don’t let other people pull the wool over your eyes.

    I have read it. And no one (but myself!) is pulling the wool over my eyes. I will reread the text you have about a unanimous decision and will retract or respond in due course.

    Thanks for your interest, Alan.

  • peteb

    euinni

    “I wonder who SF was expecting from FF and FG to come to their conference.”

    I doubt they really expected anyone. Look at the line-up and agenda.. the ‘conference’ is part of SF’s anti-constitution campaign.

    See – Sunday 29th Session 1: 10.45: Civil Society Against the Constitution

    “European Feminist Initiative Against the Constitution”!?!.. right.

    As for Mary-Lou’s statement.. it’s a good example of political trolling.

  • foreign correspondent

    I’ll tell you what though. I find it very strange that the more radical elements on both sides of the political spectrum (and I mean left/right not green/orange) are united in their opposition for the constitution, yet for totally opposing reasons. In Spain, where I am, the Izquierda Unida, which has a Communist Party element to it, were campaigning for a no vote, and quite a lot of the main rightwing party also voted no or abstained, according to voting analysis. It looks like the same thing is happening in France now. C’est bizarre ça, non?

  • Occasional Commenter

    f c,
    Does that mean that the only people who are in favour are the ones that don’t care about things generally? That means they probably don’t know what they’re talking about ! 🙂 *only kidding*

  • foreign correspondent

    Well, they are arguing against the constitution on completely opposing grounds. Both sides can’t be right.
    I’ve decided to read my copy of the constitution even though it’s in Spanish and the sudden arrival of the summer heat is making my brain melt. I’ll read it after my siesta though.
    Hope it’s not raining too much at home folks 🙂

  • Euinni

    Pete B

    I have seen, indeed, the ’13 points against the Constitution’ by Mary Lou McDonald. The most interesting part is the one against the ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU. I would be curious to see the articles that she is refering to. I also would be curious to know if the SF militants had an internal vote on the decision to go against the Treaty (many parties in Europe had this kind of thing). If they had not be consulted that is a real democratic deficit within the party (at least the RoI is holding a referendum). Many of my nationalist friends (in the North) are frustrated with the anti-EU stance of SF and I wonder if their opinions have been taking into acount by the leadership of SF. My understanding is that the campaign against the EU is a Southern driven one and that the Northern one will be pretty low key. See also the post that I have put on About EU on ‘The Two campaigns of SF’

  • Zorro

    SF have picked up only the bad habits from New Labour.

    Call it a CONFERENCE and noone will guess it’s yet more SF spin…

  • euinni

    sorry Pete: here

  • peteb

    Yes. euinni. I’ve seen it.. the post and the two campaigns of SF.. IMO, it’s a wider problem for them than just on the Euro (or on the EU).

    And on the Euro.. we have seen a complete U-Turn by SF.. at least on their policy.. not that they’d admit it.

  • Alan

    *C’est bizarre ça, non?*

    Not really, the far left ( including SF) are wedded to greatly extending public sector and state control as part of their political agenda. They didn’t get the rigid protections that they asked for and therefore the constitution doesn’t suit. There is, however, a recognition of the importance of the sector, but within a pluralist system.

    The right wing – well, they’ll speak for themselves, but they are very good at saying no.

  • Euinni

    Pete B
    I agree with you, I wonder sometimes if SF had not been GUE/NGLised too much and became just another leftist and anti-elitist party in Europe.

  • Occasional Commenter

    Alan,
    Article 15.2 states:
    Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union’s common foreign and
    security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the acts
    adopted by the Union in this area. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union’s
    interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.

    You seem to be right that unanimity is required for the E.U. to start a war, but the above article is different. It severely restricts a member states options, both diplomatically and practically. If the E.U. decides to invade Iraq, Ireland wouldn’t even be allowed to protest, never mind be able to assist Iraqis in a humanitarian way.

    I’ve heard some people say that this was already agreed in Maastricht. If so, that’s still not an argument to vote Yes. Vote No and send the signal that we want to undo that part of Maastricht. The E.U. should undo all the foreign policy related Treaties until if/when the public are genuinely happy to hand over control.

    f c,
    both sides can be right. When the far left and far right are complaining about different parts of the document, there is no contradiction. Even when they complain about the same part of the document (“it’s too left wing” or “it’s too right wing”) it just means the document is trying to sit in the middle and is failing to make everyone happy. Why not just remove that part of the document. Stick to what we can agree on.

    Alan said:
    > The right wing – well, they’ll speak for themselves, but they are very good at saying no.

    Now it’s your turn to read history. It was the Tories that brought the UK into the EC, against bitter Labour opposition – although both sides were divided.

  • Occasional Commenter

    Doh, I must add I’m not certain what the ‘official’ Labour position was on joining the EC. I just know they were badly split.

  • KC

    I was just wondering what jobs the majority of commentors on this site have..? I enjoy reading the thoughts and opinions posted but would never have time to compose such long and (often) well-researched and thorough arguments as i see here daily. I think I’m in the wrong line of work……??

  • Chris Gaskin

    KC

    A lot of students, civil servant and solicitors with too much time on their hands 😉

  • Alan

    Ireland isn’t going to invade Iraq!!!

    *You seem to be right that unanimity is required for the E.U. to start a war, but the above article is different. It severely restricts a member states options, both diplomatically and practically. If the E.U. decides to invade Iraq, Ireland wouldn’t even be allowed to protest, never mind be able to assist Iraqis in a humanitarian way.*

    But Ireland would have to agree to make war on Iraq in the first place. Even De Valera would have found that kind of volte face hard to explain.

    Also, I don’t know many right wingers who would claim Edward Heath as one of their own.

    Euinni,

    SF’s problem is that they have nowhere else to go. At least Hume could talk up the PES. Without the leftists, SF will walk alone – that would be as good as abstention.

  • euinni

    OC:
    I am not sure that you are giving the right number of the article: the one that you refer to seems to relate to economic and employment. Whatever, the Treaty is an agreement, therefore you will find inside all the aspirations of the different member states. During the Convention, there was a French aspiration for closer integration in the realm of the security and defence. But this was only an aspiration. And as the Treaty is an agreement, Ireland managed ‘to secure this clause: “The policy of the Union (…) shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States’ art.I. 41.2)
    The Treaty, therefore, respects Ireland neutrality. The Irish Government also plan to put in place a triple lock: any action will need: 1) a UN mandate; 2) a Dail aprouval; 3) the Government aprouval.

  • Occasional Commenter

    What if an opposition party wins an election on a manifesto pledge to remove troops from a war which the previous government had signed up too? Will the E.U. allow the country to change it’s mind? I expect not.

    euinni, I’ve got a different version of the document. Article 15 in mine is 16 in yours.

  • euinni

    Apologise for having written aprouval instead of approval (still learning English).

    OC:

    That’s a lots of ‘if’. I answer your point: as all the decisions at the Council on CFSP matters are taken unanimously, if a member state wants to withdraw from on operation it will be free to do so. The whole thing is not compulsary and all the mechanisms are ‘opt-in’ as well as ‘opt-out.’What makes you feel that the EU would be against the will of member states as the Council mechanisms are purely intergovernmental?
    BTW, which version of the Treaty are you using, I am curious to investigate these differences.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The European Constitution is 325 pages in length. The American constitution is no more than 20 (not including amendments); the Irish constitution is 65 pages long including amendments.

    What’s wrong with this picture ?

  • euinni

    Camarade!

    The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe is indeed a long and heavy document. We are talking about a Treaty, which can be amendable, not a Constitution set in stone. Some of the member states would have liked a ‘real’ constitution (Fran/Bel/Lux), but most of the other members did not want it that way (that’s why you get this rather bizarre title). The Treaty is divided in four parts: 1) the ambition of the EU, 2)the Charter 3) the mechanisms i.e. a compilation of the existing treaties with some clarifications, 4) protocoles. If you read the 2 first parts, you get, under a reasonable amount of pages, a very good taste of what the EU wants to be, its ambitions and its values. Comrad Stalin is complaning about the lenght of the Treaty, however, does Comrad Stalin want to do everything the same way the American citizens do? Does not sound very Soviet for me…

  • Occasional Commenter

    I think Comrade Stalin would prefer:

      A Treaty Establishing a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
    Article I

    • Comrade Stalin is the boss

    euinni,
    if it takes unanimity to decide foreign policy, it takes unanimity to change it. This means that an incoming government must go along with the foreign policy agreed by it’s predecessor – unless it can convince every other country to change it’s mind too. Imagine if the E.U. leads a war for regime change in Africa or China or North Korea or somewhere, with the agreement of a Labour government, but then the Lib Dems win a general election on a promise to try to pull the troops out. There’s a debate over whether they could pull the troops out – but there’s no doubt that the country would otherwise be required to support the E.U. and would not be able to help the other side in any way.

  • Occasional Commenter

    euinni,
    I’m using the version from here

    So there’s obviously two different versions. I wonder which one we’re voting on!

  • euinni

    Dear OC,

    Glad to be able to access the Slugger again, was not able to access it all day, was it the case for anybody else?

    1) Good point on our Comrad Stalin.
    2) I do not agree with you. In a situation which requires unanimity, if an actor disagrees with the rest of the group it has de facto the obstructive power of veto and then the possibility to pull out of previous engagements. Under the so-called Peterberg Tasks, there are no provisions for ‘regimes changes’ something which would be hard to swallow not only by the Irish, but also for the Fran/Bel/Germ/Aust/Swe/Find. The Persterbeg task covers humanitarian rescue tasks, peace keeping missions, conflict resolutions and conflict preventions missions.
    3) You are using the ‘Draft Treaty’ which is the document that the Convention has produced. This document has been reviewed and amended by the Member States before being signed on 18 June 2004. You can access the actual treaty here

  • Occasional Commenter

    I couldn’t access it either. I was at a loss as to what to do in work. I had to actually concentrate on work, which just isn’t right on a Friday!

  • bertie

    It is very disturbing how disorientated I was at not being able to log on to this.

  • Henry94

    The French have said non!. 55% – 45% at least

    The constitution is dead.

  • Davros

    Blast!

  • Occasional Commenter

    This particular constitution is dead. I expect that they will come up with something else in a few years.

  • euinni

    Yeah, seems at the very least compromise. Sarkozy said that he wants a more ‘democratic and protectionist Europe.’ J. Straw said that ‘we need time to reflect’, we are moving towards a re-negotiation. More here

  • Chris Gaskin

    God bless the French, yes!!!

    You can’t call them “cheese eating surrender monkey’s any more” 😉

    The corrupt EU constitution is dead

    Vive la France!

  • euinni

    CG,
    At least we, the French, have cheese.

  • Occasional Commenter

    euinni,
    So there is a Plan B after all 🙂

    By the way, I completely withdraw all my concerns above about how this constitution might have affected Irish neutrality. I’m happy that the Seville Declaration protects that – which the Irish people only got because they rejected Nice first time around – proof that voting No will get concessions.

  • euinni

    OC:

    The Treaty will be renegotiated, but I am curious to see if the No supporters will get what they want in a future Treaty (specially given their divergences.)I don’t know what will be the process of renegotiation, if we are going for an IGC type or a Convention type renegotiation process.
    The ‘Irish clause’, which protects neutrality was agreed in the run up of the Treaty on the European Union and has been always incorporated since.

  • euinni
  • Occasional Commenter

    euinni,

    I am quite confident that a renegotiated European Union could satisfy all the No supporters. All the is required is for the member states to agree to disagree. If we can’t agree a social model, a foreign policy, a tax policy et cetera, then just let each country do it’s own thing.

  • Henry94

    OC

    In what way would that differ from not having an EU at all?

  • Occasional Commenter

    Henry94,

    In many ways. In the areas where it is agreed to cooperate (trade, natural resources, the environment or whatever) then we need institutions to agree and implement this. This is what the E.C. was.

    The E.C. was far from perfect, but it’s scope was limited.

  • euinni

    Dear OC,

    I am glad to read that you are more optimistic than me (at least tonight.) But, just to remind you that all the head of states have already agreed with the Treaty thanks to the first class mediation of Bertie Ahern, therefore the Treaty was an agreement reflecting the positions of the different member states. Of course we can agree to disagree, Sarkozy has a good story about that: one day a woman stopped him in the street saying that she was going to vote No, he asked her: ‘are you married’ and she replied, ‘yes’. He asked: ‘do you have arguments with your husband?’ and she replied ‘yes’. He asked: ‘do you want to divorce after every arguments?’ And she replied: ‘no.’ He then concluded: ‘this is the same with Europe, Europe is like a family: we have arguments, but we do not divorce with it, we do not divorce with Europe.’

  • Occasional Commenter

    euinni, when I said they *could* satisfy the No camp, I didn’t say that they *would*! I expect they will make the bare minimum changes to get it pushed through, and will also redouble their propaganda effort. So I am not optimistic.

    If I am optimistic in any way, it’s because the EU now interferes with life in so many ways that much of the public are noticing it for the first time, and are having the debate they should have had decades ago.

  • Occasional Commenter

    euinni said:
    the Treaty was an agreement reflecting the positions of the different member states

    It was an agreement between the Governments. An agreement of this nature can only be said to be agreed by the Irish State AFTER a Yes vote in a referendum of the people. It hasn’t even been ratified by the UK Parliament either.

    It has not been agreed by the states by any stretch of the imagination.

    The marriage/divorce analogy is no use. The people of Europe have not and will not agree to a marriage in the first place. At most we want to be good friends and neighbours. Just because two people could get married, doesn’t mean they should. Again, the pro-constitution lobby fail to advocate a single reason to vote Yes.

  • bertie

    I would sretch the analogy in the sence that i think we are being pressurised into a marriage by the fear that we will be left on the shelf if we don’t as opposed to there being any positive advantage.

  • Occasional Commenter

    bertie,
    There is no problem with being left on the shelf so to speak, because the individual countries and the EU itself has a future even without this constitution. To stick with the marriage analogy, you don’t have to get married if you can clone yourself!