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.

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  • John East Belfast

    Martin Schultz

    Disappointing – big on rehtoric but short on detail.

    He begins with the well trodden success of the EU bringing “peace and stability to a war-riven continent” and then criticises Euro Sceptics for “conjuring up nostalgia for the lost idyll of protectionist nation-states”

    However a Pro Europe (but sceptic none the less) like myself doesnt have a concern about protectionism but is more concerned that the EU is endeavouring to create a one size fits all straight jacket which actually causes an drag on the whole that creates inefficiencies in Europe. We end up moving towards the Highest rates of tax and the greatest amounts of bureaucracy that genuine competition among nation states would prevent.

    Consequently I simply dont agree with his (and something he gives no evidence of or argument for)

    “I am convinced that every European country, small or big, rich or poor, is better off being a member of the EU”

    Why ? – that is just a vacuous statement.

    On another thread I stated that I believed the EU favoured two types of country

    1. Large traditional powerful states (UK, Germany, France etc) at whatever stage of their economic cycle

    2. Smaller, poorer, emerging states that need a leg up.

    As a consequence if I was an ROI voter I am far from convinced that the EU is now a good place to be if I was wanting to administer the kind of medicine that the ROI economy needs. (And I am aware that if it wasnt for the Euro membership the ROI would have sunk under this banking crisis).

    But the ROI needs to take control of

    1. Its own fiscal policy – Target tax breaks as it feels fit
    2. Takle control of its own borders – have immigration reflect who it wants and needs
    3. Support whatever companies it wants via Govt support without having to bow to EU legislation on the same
    4. Ultimately – it should leave the Euro and rejoin sterling.
    It has more in common with the UK economic cycle and property owning culture and it could introduce off shore tax breaks for UK nationals wanting to base themselves off shore from London and/or the UK retiree market.
    5. Re-develop its economy as a major off shore financial centre.

    None of these options are available to the ROI within the EU straight jacket and instead it will just have more of the same medicine.
    Monetary policy and tax laws will suit the big players and the poorer countries will be given a leg up via subsidy. With their improved infrastructure, lower costs and educated labour forces the ROI will see its traditional FDI head east.

    The ROI needs radical out of teh box thinking and the EU wont foster that

  • Dave

    Good post, John.

    Few would dispute the claim that global solutions are needed to global problems, but what has the EU got to do with global solutions? Nothing.

    The EU, post Lisbon, would be a regional federal state that accounts for less than 8% of the global population and would be just 1 of the worlds’ 206 states. It offers no solution that is not already available to any one of the other 2006 states.

    Indeed, the EU merely serves to make global problems worse as the Vice-President of the European Commission, Günter Verheugen, amitted in a letter that was leaked to the Financial Times in 2006: “We have to recognise that … our environmental leadership could significantly undermine the international competitiveness of part of Europe’s energy-intensive industries and worsen global environmental performance by redirecting production to parts of the world with lower environmental standards.”

    Incidentally, Vice-President of the European Commission, Günter Verheugen, also conceded in an interview with the Financial Times in 2006 that the disadvantages of the EU greatly outweigh its advantages. He admitted that EU legislation costs European businesses in excess of 600 billion euro a year (5.5% of the total EU GDP) while the advantages of the Single Market only added 150 billion euro to EU GDP. In real terms, the Member States are over 450 billion a year worse off within to the EU than they would be if they traded freely with each other without it.

  • Mick Fealty


    That point was just part of a great contrapuntal argument between McKenna and Harkin on Todat Fm debate just now…

    Harkin asked “are we to deny Poland the kind of help that we had in getting dell to come Limerick?”

    Or put another way, ‘take the money and run’?

  • Mick Fealty

    Listener: “If Michael O’Leary is saying vote yes, there must be a catch it: just like Ryanair.”

  • Dave

    Mick, EU grants never amounted to more than a fraction of Irish GDP – and never came close to equalling the subsidies given to the EU by Ireland (up to 200 worth of unprocessed fishing stock, and rising by an average of 6 billion a year). The one’s who ‘took the money’ are the EU.

    It is ridiculous for a state to be in an organisation where it is expected to collude with its competition, investing money in their infrastructure which is then used by that competing state to take jobs and investment from the assisting state.

    We are not doing these states any favours by shackling their freedom and making them dependent on state subsidies, and nor are we doing national taxpayers any favours since it is they who must pay the higher prices for goods and services that are required to raise these grants.

  • zeleneye

    Dave don’t recycle that horse about fisheries. It is simply not true.

    The true figure for fish caught in Irish waters – in total – since 1973 is about €12 billion – I have an article from Inshore Ireland on this but there are figures online somewhere.

    Before we joined the EU, we fished about 9% of the fish caught in Irish waters, and the Irish catch was worth about €25 million annually (inflation-adjusted). We now catch about 45%, valued at about €135 million annually. The figures you use bear no relation to reality.

    All of this ignores the most opprobrious aspect of your claim. It ignores the disproportionately huge amounts of the quotas gained for Atlantic Dawn Ltd through their FF proxies. Irish fishermen do not just fish in Irish waters!!!

    Atlantic Dawn Ltd has the largest two trawlers in Europe, thanks to exemptions to EU rules that were negotiated in Council by their FF proxies. These supertrawlers have hoovered up fish across European waters and have in the past 5 years moved further south to fish in African waters as part of bilateral agreements negotiated there.

    Not only do they rape the seas using rights negotiated by the EU, they are also suspected to be major culprits of overfishing.