Lisbon Essay (18): Giving the Celtic Tiger back its growl

Today Martin Schultz, leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament argues that a yes to Lisbon is essential to reviving Ireland’s fortunes (a view previously supported by LE11 but opposed in LE5 (and in this follow up from Stephen Kinsella). The question, he argues, is not apocalyptical. It about making Europe more transparent and democratically accountable by strengthening parliamentary rights at the national level. The benefits of the Union to smaller countries like Ireland, he believes, are indisputable. It will, he concludes, (eventually) help Ireland’s Tiger regain its growl..

By Martin Schultz

When Slugger invited me to contribute a blog on the Irish referendum, I hesitated. Too many outsiders are already meddling in the internal affairs of Ireland claiming to know what is best for the Irish, and I had no intention of joining this chorus. It is up to the people of Ireland to decide for themselves how to vote.

With just ten days to go, the “yes” and “no” campaigns are well underway. Preying on fears, playing on stereotypes and spreading lies seem to be the chief strategy of the no-campaigners. As someone with a strong belief in open and democratic debate I find it impossible to keep quiet and that is why I have now decided to share my very personal beliefs on Europe and the Lisbon Treaty with you.

Yes, I am a pro-European and yes, I support the Lisbon treaty.

Europe looks back at an amazing success story. It brought peace and stability to a war-riven continent and later its huge market gave us economic growth and prosperity. Today the EU is the largest economic bloc and trade partner in the world, a global player by definition. Growing interdependence between economies and societies is a basic fact of life.

The key challenge for politics in the 21st century is to make globalisation fair, just and sustainable.

Eurosceptics and economic nationalists seek votes by conjuring up nostalgia for the lost idyll of protectionist nation-states. They want people to believe that we can continue to live in the past and be immune from globalisation. They gravely damage the interests and well-being of future generations by suggesting that 19th century ideologies can provide answers for the challenges of the 21st century.

I believe that the EU is our best tool for dealing with a changing world. Today’s challenges defy borders and make cooperative action essential. No state, however big or rich, can go it alone in fighting climate change, re-launching the economy, tightening the control of global financial markets, dealing with international terrorism, promoting human rights, eradicating nuclear armament or ending hunger and poverty in the world.

I am convinced that every European country, small or big, rich or poor, is better off being a member of the EU. Pooling national sovereignty on the EU level strengthens the sovereignty of the people by empowering us all to shape the processes of globalisation.

Today’s EU institutions were built in different times, for fewer members, to serve other purposes. If we want the EU to be able to cope with global challenges we have to provide its institutions with a progressive agenda and the means to face the tasks ahead. The Lisbon Treaty amends and updates existing treaties with the goal of making the EU more efficient, more effective and more democratic by strengthening parliaments’ rights both at European and at national level. I have fought hard for the reforms Europe desperately needs, because I strongly believe that we all have to adapt to new times.

Today we stand at a crossroads. Are we willing to reform in order to make the EU fit for the future? I am convinced that Ireland, like all member countries, has benefited hugely from being part of a bigger Union in the past and will continue to do so in the future. This Union has helped us all to weather the current economic crisis and will soon help the Celtic Tiger regain its growl. The Union gives Ireland a stronger voice in European and global affairs. Yes, the bottom line is that voting YES is in the best interests of the Irish people and Europe as a whole.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty