A second referendum to ratify the Lisbon Treaty will be held in the 26 Counties before October 31st of next year, according to the conclusions of a European Union summit this week.
The Lisbon treaty, which seeks to militarise, federalise and centralise power within the European Union, was rejected by the 26 County electorate in June by a decisive margin.
Now EU leaders have agreed “necessary legal guarantees” which promise to allow each member state to retain a member of the ruling European Commission and soothe Irish concerns on taxation policy, family and social issues, and neutrality.
EU leaders reached the deal today [Friday] in Brussels at the end of a summit held to decide a roadmap on how to progress the European project, despite the Irish rejection of the treaty.
The conclusions were agreed today by French and current EU president Nicolas Sarkozy “with a view to enabling the treaty to enter into force by the end of 2009”. Irish voters are to be required to back the Lisbon Treaty before the term of the current European Commission ends on October 31st, 2009.
The conclusions contain an annex of remarks, platitudes, assurances and “guarantees” directed to Irish voters.
The conclusions state that EU leaders have agreed to offer the “necessary legal guarantees” on the continuation of Ireland’s officially-stated policy of neutrality within the European military project; the recognition of the Irish constitution’s position on the right to life; and the absence of new tax-raising powers in the Lisbon Treaty.
It remains unclear how the so-called guarantees are to be given legal effect, or whether they have meaningful and binding content.
They also stand in contradiction to the body of the treaty, as well as new policies agreed at this week’s summit. One outlines a range of new initiatives to strengthen the European Union’s military powers with the goal of achieving readiness for a potential intercontinental conflict. Immediate goals are for the EU are to be able to deploy 60,000 soldiers within 60 days and thousands of civilian personnel -- on at least a dozen simultaneous missions -- as part of a “strategic partnership between the EU and NATO”.
And following British objections, the summit conclusions had to be amended to remove a statement offering a guarantee on Irish workers’ issues. Instead, the conclusions contain language that now only offers vague assurances on workers’ rights.
The conclusions state that the EU attaches high importance to social progress and the protection of workers’ rights; public services; the responsibility of member states for the delivery of education and health services; and the essential role of local government in providing non-economic services of general interest.
After weeks of back-room dealing, Taoiseach Brian Cowen finally confirmed this lunchtime he is going to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Cowen said: “On the basis of today’s agreement ... I am prepared to go back to the Irish people next year.”
Asked about the negotiations at the summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he believed people would be satisfied by the agreement of EU leaders.
“I believe (it is) a successful attempt to ensure that the Irish concerns are taken note of but not disrupting the progress we made in Europe on the Lisbon treaty,” he said.
Mr Cowen was strongly criticised by the Irish opposition parties this week for carrying on the talks ‘behind the backs’ of the electorate.
“It is quite astounding that EU leaders, officials, ambassadors all now know the Irish government’s plan [for a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty] but the electorate has yet to be told,” said Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.
“They have not sought to have the Treaty re-negotiated but have spent the last six months trying to find a way around it.”
Speaking at a conference for Ogra Shinn Féin, his party’s youth wing, Mr Adams said that any guarantees which may be included in a future treaty, are “totally unacceptable”.
“The Lisbon Treaty was rejected by the Irish people because it is a bad deal for Ireland. It needs to be re-negotiated to definitively address issues like neutrality, sovereignty over taxation, public services and workers rights,” he said.
“It needs be about maintaining Ireland’s political strength in the EU. How the Irish government and EU leaders deal with this issue will be watched carefully by tens of millions of people across the EU who has deep concerns about the direction that an elite within EU institutions are trying to take.”
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also said he had “very little confidence” in Mr Cowen’s ability to steer the country towards a solution. Although his party supported the first Lisbon Treaty, Mr Kenny said his party had not given the coalition government a ‘blank cheque’ on the issue.
“I am astonished at the Taoiseach’s utter failure to build any bipartisan support for a solution, something he desperately needs.
“My party, which has been consistently and strongly supportive of all EU treaties to date, has not been consulted in any way about the Government’s plans regarding the Lisbon Treaty.”
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald described the Lisbon re-run deal as “an exercise in smoke and mirrors.”
Meanwhile, prominent anti-Lisbon campaigner Declan Ganley is launching his Libertas lobbying group as a pan-Europe political party to compete in next June’s European Parliament elections.
At a lunch for European journalists in Brussels today, Mr Ganley outlined ambitious plans to campaign against the Lisbon Treaty and build a new political movement.
An invitation to the lunch and press conference described Libertas as a “new European political movement dedicated to campaigning for greater democracy, accountability and transparency within the EU.”