The EU Constitution is without doubt one of the most important issues facing Ireland today. It will have far reaching consequences and will mark an important shift in our relationship with the EU.
Sinn Féin is opposing the EU Constitution. This debate is not between pro and anti Europeans. This is not a debate over whether you support or reject the EU. This debate is about the very future of the European Union. It is a clash of opposing visions of what the EU means, what is does and how it does it. Voting no will not lead to an end of the European Union, what it will do is make those leading the charge for an undemocratic EU with greater economic and military powers stop in their tracks and listen to the people.
The cosy consensus within the Dail among Fianna Fail, PDs, Labour and Fine Gael on the EU is not only unhealthy, it is damaging to Ireland and has resulted in an entire lack of analysis of where this process is taking us. The result of this can be seen in the proposed constitution. They never even argued for a specific article requiring a UN mandate, they never even argued for an article protecting neutrality. They didn,t argue against the dangers of deepening the democratic deficit and giving more powers to an unaccountable Commission. Instead the consensus in the Dail went along with the consensus of the elite in Europe.
Sinn Féin has examined the Constitution closely. We believe that the negatives in the proposed constitution vastly outweigh the positives. It deepens the democratic deficit, further concentrating power in the hands of an unelected elite at the expense of national parliaments and ordinary people.
In a remarkable departure, economic policy is to be enshrined in the constitution. Proposals within it will prevent governments from using state aid in ways that would OEdistort competition with the internal market,, irrespective of whether that aid was being used to save jobs or deliver public services to those who cannot afford services to be provided privately. Such aid will be banned, and member states will be monitored and censured if they do not comply. This could have a devastating impact on the provision of public services in this state and will be very worrying to those employed in the public sector and to communities, particularly in the West of Ireland which are already suffering from a lack of services in health and education and from poor infrastructure.
It seeks to transform the EU into a global superpower, with its own Foreign Minister, army and armaments agency. There is no requirement for a UN mandate for EU military operations, there is no recognition of neutrality.
Those who advocate this constitution say it will endure for decades tying us into an EU that is undemocratic, right wing and militarised.
The Laeken Declaration which established the Convention on the Future of Europe called for ‘more democracy, transparency and efficiency’ in the EU. It said there was a need to ‘clarify, simplify and adjust the division of competencies between the Union and the Member States.’ It acknowledged that people across the European Union did not want a ‘European superstate’ Clearly the Convention has failed in these tasks. It has produced less democracy, less transparency and less clarity. Moreover in the rush to produce a federalist constitution it ignored the other options set out in the terms of the Laeken Declaration.
Sinn Féin wants to see the original intentions of the Laeken Declaration realised. We want to build a Europe of Equals - a true partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond. We want an EU that promotes peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament and the just resolution of conflicts under the leadership of a reformed, renewed and democratised United Nations. We want an EU that respects and promotes national, collective and individual rights (including human, political, social, cultural and economic rights). We want an economically and socially just EU, not an EU that is merely another economic superpower. Equally we want a globally responsible, fair-trading EU that leads the way on reaching the Millennium Development Goals for halving global poverty by 2015.
Ultimately, we want a future United Ireland to take an active, leading role in such a reformed EU.
However what is clear is that the first step in this journey is the rejection of the proposed EU Constitution. Sinn Féin believes that another Europe is possible; we want to play an active and forward-looking part in building that Europe.
Over the next twelve months Sinn Féin will lead a major campaign, north and south, opposing ratification of the proposed EU Constitution. Our opposition is positive, progressive and forward thinking. We are asking people through Ireland to join us in this important campaign.