“It is a bizarre situation..”

What do the political scientists think of this? Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been describing the negotiated package of measures on the Lisbon Treaty as a “very major step towards delivering the way forward”. But at OpenDemocracy, John Palmer points out the “bizarre situation” Europe now finds itself in.

It is a bizarre situation: one where all the governments of the European Union will legally bind themselves not to impose on Ireland measures which none of them ever had the slightest intention of doing in the first place, and for which no provision is made in the Lisbon treaty.

The summit in Brussels agreed to a further move, namely to defer indefinitely plans to introduce a smaller, more effective and more streamlined European commission. This will mean that all member-states in the enlarged union will continue to have a commissioner of “their own”. But the fact that members of the commission have to swear an oath that they will not be advocates of the national interest of their country of origin, but rather of the collective European interest, seems to have gone unnoticed. After all, the job of national advocacy is the responsibility of national governments which form the EU’s council of ministers.

, , , , ,

  • … all the governments of the European Union will legally bind themselves not to impose on Ireland …

    A simple smokescreen to blind the ’emotional’ voters.

    … members of the commission have to swear an oath that they will not be advocates of the national interest of their country of origin …

    True, but who really thinks that it is therefore entirely unimportant whether or not they have a Commissioner? Would countries agree to never have a Commissionr? After all, it should make no difference, shouldn’t it?

    Also, the Council sometimes operates by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), where small countries could get outvoted. Better to have a Commissoner who could nip things in the bud if necessary.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I believe that the Irish government fears that the referendum was lost because of a lot of the misleading press that was put about – about things like military neutrality and so on. There is a certain amount of justification for this.

    However, friends of mine who voted yes have said that if the referendum is voted again they’ll say no in protest over the referendum being re-run.

  • abc

    “But the fact that members of the commission have to swear an oath that they will not be advocates of the national interest of their country of origin, but rather of the collective European interest, seems to have gone unnoticed.”

    Well my interpretation of the desireability of having a commissioner for each country is that this essentially means each country has the power, in the form of their commissioner who is presumably still loyal to national interest despite their oath, to quid pro quo any other country/commissioner, in the form of their commissioner, which is proposing a policy which that country no like. For that reason alone I think it is a good idea for each states party to the european treaties to have at least one commissioner.

  • Brian Boru

    “It is a bizarre situation: one where all the governments of the European Union will legally bind themselves not to impose on Ireland measures which none of them ever had the slightest intention of doing in the first place, and for which no provision is made in the Lisbon treaty.”

    Beware the law of unintended consequences. The ECJ Chen ruling in 2004, which entitled the parents of EU citizenships rights of residency within the EU was not an intended consequence of the Treaties. Likewise the Metock (2008) judgement overturning Irish controls on marriages to prevent them being used to gain residency in Ireland was not an intended consequence of EU law – a fact attested to by the support of other member states such as France and the UK for Ireland’s position in the ECJ. The ECJ has a history of “competence creep” i.e. adding to the EU’s competences by claiming they are already competences despite nothing specific agreeing with this in the treaties. In any case, I am as yet unconvinced of these concessions. Commission President Barroso has stated that renegotiation of the text of the Treaty is “out of the question” – in spite of 3 nations now having voted down this blueprint since 2005 (when it was called the EU Constitution). That raises legitimate questions as to the enforcability of the assurances in EU and international law. In any case, they are not sufficient to change my vote to yes – the Charter of Fundamental Rights is unacceptable to me as a text that will override the Irish Constitution. It will inevitably lead to a flood of legal-challenges to Irish law in the ECJ, notably on asylum and immigration, capital-punishment, industrial relations and aspects of our justice system, thereby turning the ECJ into a Supreme Court (except for the UK and Poland which have protocols opting them out of the Charter). Unless the govt obtains an optout from this federalist document, I will certainly vote no again.

    “But the fact that members of the commission have to swear an oath that they will not be advocates of the national interest of their country of origin, but rather of the collective European interest, seems to have gone unnoticed. After all, the job of national advocacy is the responsibility of national governments which form the EU’s council of ministers.”

    In practice, Commissioners have stood up for their own nation interests. In particular, McCreevy is outspoken in opposition to plans for tax-harmonisation, in contrast to Hungarian Tax Commissioner Laslo Kovacs. Likewise former Irish Commissioner McSharry was widely credited for obtaining structural-funds for Ireland during his tenure in Brussels.

  • zoonpol

    State an Irish fear and back it up from the Reform Treaty …