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1 February 2012
Readers of this blog will be aware of the extent to which Antigone1984 is committed to democracy. All authority in a democracy derives from the people, all governments owe their legitimacy to the ballot box.
Readers will also be aware that the blog is opposed to the European Union because we reject the free market economics – capitalism – upon which the European Union is based.
But we are also opposed to it because it is an elitist institution in which decisions are taken by politicians and bureaucrats without reference to popular opinion. For the Eurocrats at EU headquarters in Brussels, the people is at best an irrelevance and at worst an impediment to the smooth operation of their bureaucratic machine.
This hatred of democracy, which is a core feature of the European Union, could not be better illustrated than it is in the lead story in today’s Irish Times (1 February). The article, written by Arthur Beesley and Stephen Collins, begins as follows:
“Europe’s new fiscal treaty was specifically crafted to minimise the prospect of a referendum in Ireland, The Irish Times has learned.
As Fianna Fáil [the main opposition party] joined other Opposition groups in demanding a referendum, a high-level European official said elements of the pact were written with the objective of avoiding a public vote in Ireland.
The official acknowledged that the matter was likely to end up in the hands of
the Supreme Court but said the EU authorities still hoped there would be no plebiscite in Ireland.
“We drafted the text for the treaty so that he [Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister or Taoiseach] has a chance to avoid a referendum,” the official said…
“On the challenge facing the Government in any referendum, the official said it was “perfectly well” known that the answer the public gave would not be the answer to the question posed. “So it is nothing to do with democracy.”
Last Monday (30 January) all of the EU’s 27 member states bar two (the UK and the Czech Republic) approved a far-reaching fiscal treaty which obliges all signatories to keep their budgets in surplus or in balance. Member states’ adherence to this requirement will be policed by the unelected European Commission and those states which run up prohibited deficits will be prosecuted and fined at the EU’s commercial court (known formally as the European Court of Justice).
In effect, this means that the current budgetary powers of elected governments will be surrendered to Brussels. Member States will have to manage their economies on strict monetarist lines. The Keynsian option of running up a deficit to stimulate growth during a depression will no longer be available to them.
One might think that a change of such magnitude would automatically require the assent of the people on whose behalf the treaty was agreed.
Not a bit of it. That is not how the EU works. In 24 of the 25 signatory states the treaty will be rubber-stamped at the behest of the main political parties in tame national parliaments.
The case of Ireland, however, is different. Under the Irish Constitution any major devolution of national sovereignty to the European Union must be approved in a national referendum.
However, since the Irish electorate has a stubborn tradition of intermittently rejecting EU proposals, the prospect of a referendum on the fiscal treaty sows consternation in the ranks of the Brussels elite. Which is why the treaty was drafted in such a way as to minimise the need for public consultation.
For its part, the Irish Government is bending over backwards to accommodate the EU’s wishes by doing all it can to avoid holding a referendum. It is currently awaiting a legal opinion on this question from the Irish Attorney General Máire Whelan. However, even if she opines that a referendum is not necessary, any decision by the government to ratify the treaty without one is almost certain to end up for a final adjudication in the Irish Supreme Court.
The following letter, published today, 1 February 2012, in The Irish Times sums up popular disgust at the Government’s disdain for the views of its own people:
What sort of democracy do we inhabit where the elected Government is openly hoping that the Attorney General will not consider it necessary that a major piece of European legislation should be placed before the Irish people in a referendum?
Harbour View, Wicklow”