Old letter in a new envelope
– EU Constitution now called the Lisbon Treaty
by Elke Schenk: firstname.lastname@example.org
“All dangers come from the people”
They only changed the envelope so as to make the treaty easier to swallow and to avoid referendums. The letter in the envelope is still the same. By way of the EU treaty, the EU citizens “will unknowingly agree to a number of decisions that the European politicians do not even wish to present openly to their people“- Giscard d’Estaing, former French President and president of the EU Constitutional Convent.
“They [EU leaders] decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception. Nothing (will be) directly produced by the Prime Ministers because they feel safer with the unreadable thing. They can present it better in order to avoid dangerous referendums. “ – Guiliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister.
“It is questionable, whether the citizens in the respective countries will let themselves be dissuaded about the fact, that a large part of the Constitutional Treaty has been put into the new treaty. The new primary law might be unveiled as a cheat package. “ – Centre for Applied Policy research (CAP) close to the Bertelsmann Foundation on the Lisbon Treaty 2007.
“France was just ahead of all other countries in voting no. It would happen in all countries if they had a referendum. There is a split between people and governments. “ – Nicolas Sarkozy, French state president, in a closed session of the EU Parliament, as reported in the Telegraph, 14 November 2007 ( )
From the EU Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty
In October 2004, after much back and forth debate, the governments of the EU signed a Constitutional Treaty for the European Union in Rome. This treaty should then have been ratified in all EU countries, in a number of them by way of referendum, and then entered into force. The citizens of France and the Netherlands in 2005 thwarted this plan: they voted No. Also in countries where the population were denied the right to a referendum, as in Germany, opinion polls showed that the attitude of the people became increasingly negative as more information filtered through about the contents of the treaty.
The EU governments failed to draw the conclusion that there is no future for Europe without real democratic participation of the citizens, despite the criticisms and failure of the Constitutional treaty. On the contrary, the governments looked for a way to save “the substance of the reforms“and to avoid new referendums.
What is the Lisbon Treaty Process?
In order to circumvent troublesome democratic resistance, the “old wine” of the Constitutional Treaty was simply poured into the new flasks of a treaty that is now called “The Reform Treaty“ or “Treaty of Lisbon“. A more detailed examination shows the text is largely identical with the EU Constitution, which is supposed to be introduced through the back door without dangerous referenda. The Irish people are the only ones allowed to vote. The Lisbon Treaty has been worked out behind closed doors in a government conference. Only three EU Parliamentarians, among them the Bertelsmann lobbyist Elmar Brok, were admitted. After the treaty was signed in December 2007 by the heads of state and government, it must be ratified in all 27 countries to come into force as planned on the 1st of January, 2009. The tight schedule, besides circumventing referendums, serves the purpose of implementing the treaty before people realise that it is almost the same as the rejected EU Constitution. On approx. 150 pages plus additional protocols and declarations, changes are listed to the still valid Nice versions of the EU Treaty and the EC Treaty, the latter being renamed “Treaty on the Functioning of the Union (TFU)“. For smaller changes, only references can be found, new regulations are reprinted as new articles. Since the text is complicated, the European Parliament unanimously wanted to produce a consolidated and readable version. The EU Commission responded by overruling the EP and deciding that no EU Institution may produce a consolidated version until after the treaty is ratified in all member states. The message is clearly: Sign! – read afterwards. Third parties have produced a consolidated version however (see bottom of page).
Why does the Lisbon Treaty matter?
Already 70-80% of national legislation is based on EU directives. National parliaments to a large extent are simply the executors of EU legislation. This marginalisation of national legislation would increase with the new treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty would have precedence over the Constitutions of member states, even though it contradicts with several of them; regulations dealing with sovereignty, defence and the economy of the Irish Constitution are incompatible with the Lisbon Treaty.
The course has been set for a centralised EU state, which is claiming global power.
Public services will be put under more pressure for privatisation.
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: more promises than it can give…
Even critics of the Lisbon Treaty point to the Charter of Fundamental Rights as an essential contribution to a democratic EU. The Charter is now no longer part of the treaty text, however, it is being declared legally binding by a reference. The governments of Great Britain, Poland, and Ireland only agreed to the treaty under the condition of being given a waver concerning the legal status of the Charter in their countries. Even though the fundamental rights should be individually enforceable, it is unclear how this could be put into practice. The Charter includes essential human and citizen’s rights, which are now fortunately the legal standard in many European countries. However, at the end of the Charter the exercise of rights recognised in the Charter is subject to “the conditions and the limits defined“by the other treaties of the EU. This shows a tendency to reverse the relationship between Basic Rights and legislation which is derived from them. (Charter, Art. 52). Moreover, in many parts the Fundamental Rights are more weakly formulated than the General Declaration of Human Rights in the UN. Social rights, insofar as they are included at all, de facto stand under the proviso of the rights of free enterprise and competition, as does the whole Charter; a clear social obligation for private property is missing.
Improvements for the EU Parliament – more transparency for the citizens…
Many policy matters, on which the Council of Ministers used to decide alone behind closed doors, now fall under the participatory legislative procedure, which means that the approval of the EU Parliament (EP) is needed and in that way also more public attention is drawn towards upcoming decisions. For example, from now on the EP would be able to participate in decision-making in the areas of domestic and regulatory policy, or in the area of World Trade Agreements (WTO). When voting on directives, the Council is supposed to meet in public which means our ministers will no longer be able to hide their responsibility as easily.
…but traps in the small print and no direct democracy
The EU Parliament is still denied the right to propose legislative initiatives and may only vote on submissions from the EU Commission. Furthermore, even in the co-decision procedure, the executive (Council of Ministers and EU-Commission) is dominant. In significant areas the EU Parliament continues to be excluded, for instance in the control of the border security agency Frontex, the Defence Agency (EDA) or the Council Committee on Internal Security, true separation of powers still do not exist at the EU level. The extension of the possibility for “enhanced co-operation” of at least nine countries, in cases where the majority is not complying, further reduces participation rights of the EP, which had seemed to be assured (EU Treaty, Art. 10). The enhanced cooperation still needs to be affirmed by the EP, however. The Citizens’ Petition is non-binding for the Commission and a petition can only be filed based on the new treaty. That means that petitions against military missions or against the effects of neo-liberalism would have no legal basis and therefore be rejected. The relationship to the subject is revealed to be feudalistic: democracy is when citizens “receive equal attention from bodies, institutions and other agencies of the Union“(EU Treaty, Art. 8).
More influence for the national parliaments…
The national parliaments may only object to directives proposed by the EU Commission if they think that Brussels is assuming competences (and thereby violates the so called principle of subsidiarity). If, within 8 weeks, the majority of all national parliaments (with 2 votes per member state) establish such a violation, the Council and EP are required to assess the proposal under this aspect and may reject it.
…or rather EU dominance over national sovereignty
It may be questioned whether in practice this means a strengthening of national parliaments or just a placebo for the national MPs who feel increasingly obsolete. Some regulations give priority to the EU level – a clear reversal of the subsidiarity principle. For example, in all areas under shared competence of the Union and member states, the member states may only become active insofar and to the extent to which the Union is not exercising its competence. Even in areas which remain formally within the competence of the member states, the EU still has the right to intervene into national sovereign legislation by way of “actions to support, co-ordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States“ (Treaty on the Functioning of the Union, Art. 2 a – 2 e).
Improved capacity for action of the EU – for the benefit of big States and big business
Majority decisions in the Council of Ministers are to become the rule. From 2014, the double majority would be introduced (55% of the “weighted” votes of the member states plus 65% of the population). That means that Germany’s share of votes would double, France and Great Britain would gain 50%, and 40% in voting power respectively; small States such as Ireland would lose influence on decisions made in Brussels. The EU Commission would be reduced to 18 members. Instead of the bi-annual rotation of presidencies, the European Council will have a president with a 2½ year term. These changes meet demands by neo-liberal think-tanks and business lobby groups. They want the EU to be managed in an output-oriented way like a business company. For them discussion and participation is a waste of time.
EU sets the course for global power aspirations…
The Common Foreign and Security Policy falls into the sole competence of the EU. A new office for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be established. For the first time, “the Union’s strategic interests“are mentioned in a treaty (EU Treaty, Art 13). The EU Council gives itself permission for world-wide interventions “to safeguard its values, fundamen-tal interests, security, independence and integrity“ – even without UN mandate (EU Treaty Art. 10 A, 2 and Art. 28 A). The impor-tance of the UN is further diminished – the EU only wants to establish “appropriate forms of co-operation“(Treaty on the Functioning of the Union, 188 P), here the so called “Petersberg tasks” for civil and military missions are defined. These include, for instance, “joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories.” (Art. 28 B, 1)
A consistent obligation to a culture of peaceful conflict resolution and its appropriate institutions is missing. Where “civilian means“of security policy are mentioned, this refers to the police. The member states are obliged to “progressively … improve their military capabilities. “ This language has to be considered as an obligation for rearmament. All this is supervised by the Defence Agency (EDA), which in the original version was called the” Agency for Armament“. This agency is linked to the EU Council and financed by the member states budget. In addition, procedures are in place which would guarantee “rapid access to appropriations in the Union budget for urgent financing” of “civilian and military assets”. A special military budget – the “start-up fund made up of Member States’ contributions“- would be created (EU Treaty, Art. 28, 3). Alexander Weis, head of the “Defence Agency“ and former head of the Armament Department in the German Defence Ministry, now no longer refrains from announcing 2008 as Europe’s “year of armament“ (FAZ, 24 October, 07). Governments of countries who want even more militarization may join a Permanent Structured Cooperation (EU Treaty, Art. 27,6), a kind of coalition of the willing who “fulfil higher criteria“ with respect to their military capabilities “with a view to the most demanding missions“ (i.e. combat missions). In the case of an attack, all member states are obliged to provide unrestricted assistance. The EU, which had emerged out of a mere economic union, would now turn into a defence alliance.
Domestic Military interventions
The “Solidarity Clause“ permits – even preventive – military interventions within the EU borders: “The Union shall mobilise all instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States, to prevent the terrorist threat in the territory of the Member States; protect democratic institutions and the civilian population from any terrorist attack; assist a Member State in its territory, at the request of its political authorities, in the event of a terrorist attack“ (Art. 188 R). Does that mean that the already softened separation between the police and the military is supposed to be lifted completely?
Foreign, security and military policy without democratic and legal control
The EU Parliament is “briefed“and “heard“in questions of foreign, security and defence policy. Budgetary control – the “sovereign right“of any other parliament – is refused to the EP as far as the military budget goes. Military missions can be ordered without its approval. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) “shall not have jurisdiction with respect to the provisions relating to common foreign and security policy“(TFU, Art. 240 a). The obligation to receive approval by national parliaments for foreign deployments of armed forces is in question, as the common foreign and security policy lies in the sole competence of the EU. Moreover, the protocol on the Permanent Structured Cooperation explicitly provides for “reviewing their national decision-making procedure“. The lack of democratic control in this area also increases the danger that under the cloak of security policy and the “fight against terrorism”, migration and personal freedom rights will be massively restricted.
Harsh policy against refugees and migrants
The regulations in Art. 69 TFU that put asylum seekers together with “illegal migrants“ and “slave traders“, carry the signature of rejection: An integrated border protection system along the exterior border should be built up. The EU immigration policy is supposed to steer the incoming flow – in the interest of supply of cheap labour. Treaties with third countries serve to facilitate the deportation of unwanted people. In anticipation of these regulations, the border agency Frontex was founded in 2005, which patrols the EU´s foreign borders and in the Mediterranean in order to fend off so called “illegals”. Frontex co-operates with autocratic states in North Africa by supplying them with equipment and vehicles, or financing deportation flights, so that the African states will take over part of the dirty work for Europe, proud as it is of its values and human rights. The Frontex budget is the fastest growing budget item in the EU, quadrupling its funds from 2006 to 2008 (taz, 13 November 2007).
EURATOM Treaty provides for privileged promotion of atomic energy
The EURATOM Treaty would remain fully upheld. Its goal is to promote nuclear energy in order to “create the prerequisites for the development of a powerful nuclear industry” (Preamble TFU, Art. 305). Are our politicians thwarting the exit from atomic energy by way of the EU treaties?
Stipulations of the Nice Treaty on neo-liberal economic policy remain valid
Even though, through pressure by the French President Sarkozy, cosmetic changes were made, neo-liberal economic policy still is the basis of this treaty. On the one hand, the regulations of the EU and the EC Treaties in the Nice version apply, and remain unchanged. Even in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the so called “four basic freedoms of market places“ – free movement of commodities, capital, services and labour – prevail over individual and social rights. A supplementary protocol to the EU Lisbon Treaty stipulates that, the “interior market includes a system ensuring that competition is not distorted. “
Danger for public services
In the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is becoming obligatory through the EU Lisbon Treaty, the right to free education is guaranteed only in the area of compulsory education. This opens the doors for the introduction of school and tuition fees. Education, including university education, would then fall under the EU definition of economic activities – and thereby under the EU competition law (anti-discrimination act, EU-wide obligation to open competitive bidding, ban on state subsidies, and equal treatment of private and public providers). The member states remain responsible for public services (Services of General Economic Interest). However, they are obliged “to provide, to commission and to fund such services” “in compliance with the Treaties“(TFU, Art. 16), which means they are subject to the pre-eminence of competition law. Trade in services in the social, educational and health sector (WTO-GATS) is explicitly subject to international trade agreements (WTO, EPA). Only if these agreements risk „seriously disturbing the national organisation of such services and prejudicing the responsibility of the Member States to deliver them“, the Council must decide unanimously (TFU, Art. 188 C). These regulations could increase the liberalisation pressure on public services.
We resist: No Europe without us!
For a solidarity based, peaceful,
democratic new foundation of Europe!
Attac is a trans-national initiative supported by many civil organisations in many European countries, asking Europeans of all member states to let the Irish voters know that they would vote NO and that Irish people voting No also do it in the stead of hundreds of millions who are denied a vote.
The European ATTACs demand referendums on the Lisbon Treaty in all member states. Negotiating treaties behind the citizens backs and against citizens needs is unworthy of a democratic Europe.
In the “10 principles for a democratic EU treaty“17 European Attac groups demand that a new and democratic convention should elaborate a treaty. This convention should be elected directly by the citizens of all EU member states and collaborate with the national parliaments.
These demands are shared by civil society organisations from many EU countries (see www.erc2.org/8.0.html)
Signed by the ATTACs of Germany and Austria.
Based on a text of Attac EU Working Group; Stuttgart and Region.
Contact for ATTAC Germany: Elke Schenk: email@example.com.
Contact for ATTAC Austria: Siegfried Bernhauser: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consolidated treaty: www.mwalther.net/europa/Unionsrecht-Lissabon-MWalther.pdf
Official treaty: www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/cg00014.en07.pdf
“10 principles”: www.joyfuleurope.net/mambo/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=210&Itemid=103
More information: www.erc2.org | www.cauc.org
Translation from German: Carla Krüger, Berlin and Attac EU Working Group Stuttgart