Tuesday 16 June 2009

The Irish (Provisional) Guarantees

The guarantees for Ireland are coming ever closer to being finalized, with EU ambassadors scheduled to work through a draft text later today. You can read the draft text here (via RTÉ). The guarantees will be passed via Croatia's Accession Treaty, though there is a chance that it could be passed along with a Spanish proposal to amend the Treaties so that the extra MEPs it, along with Germany and others, would have had, had the Treaty been in place before the elections, could be elected without waiting for the next election in 5 years time.

Croatia's accession wasn't brought back on track after talks to get Slovenia to unblock the opening of several new acquis chapters after ministerial meetings in Luxembourg. Since Croatia has disputed borders with Bosnia and Herzegovina, if it is finally admitted, we might have to go through the whole process again in a few years time.

The guarantees are quite comprehensive on the first reading of the draft; it's interesting to read the provisional language for each area. The strongest language is reserved for the issue of defense, to counter the claims of Sinn Féin and neutralist groups of militarisation. It is stated that the Treaty creates no army; that there'll be no conscription; that there's no obligation to increase defence spending; that the clause concerning mutual solidarity doesn't impose an obligation to provide military aid; it guarantees the Triple Lock system; and that it doesn't affect Ireland's military neutrality. There's a categorical statement that the Treaty doesn't change the tax competence of the EU (this guarantee applies to all member states).

The Constitutional provisions concerning rights to do with life, the family and education are also guaranteed not to be affected.

The commitment to workers rights however (something the Labour party was keen to see emphasised), seems to be qualified by the sentence: "In doing so, it underlines the importance of respecting the overall framework and provisions of the EU Treaties." The provisional draft simultaneously underlines that there will be (under Lisbon) a positive obligation for the EU to consider the social effects of legislation and to guarantee a high level of social protection, as well as underlining the discretion of national and local authorities in setting standards. This wording, and the final wording, will try to seek a balance between the desire to ensure social standards, and safeguarding the right of member states to set lower standards. It will only apply to Ireland, but the balance is to prevent any worries of it affecting other member states.

This is the provisional draft, and, though the final guarantee will probably pretty much do the same thing (the general shape of these guarantees has been quite certain for a while now), it could be tweaked later today.

The most important part of the guarantee will be that of one commissioner per member state, as the other guarantees really just restate and clarify the situation under the Lisbon Treaty. There have been some ominous noises out of Germany that it could push for a drastically reduced Commission if the Lisbon Treaty isn't passed - from 27 to between 12 and 18 commissioners. Under the Nice Treaty the number of commissioners must be reduced for the next Commission to be lower than that of the number of member states.

(On a side note, I wonder if the number of Commissioners is reduced, would this create pressure from the small states to make the appointment of the Commission more directly the responsibility of the EP in order to lessen the influence of the big states in setting the agenda?)


  1. And what are these guarentees actually worth? Ireland voted "No" and were made to vote again. The Lisbon Treaty puts the EU's constitution (because that's what it is) above national constitutions - it also gives the EU the power to increase its own power without reconsulting the legislature and people of the member states. Ireland won't have any guarentee worth the paper it's written on. All those years fighting for their independence and then signing it over to an even more distant power with a casual stroke of the pen. Sad.

  2. The Lisbon Treaty contains most of what was in the Constitutional Treaty. However, the status of treaty law and Community law in general isn't changed by the Lisbon Treaty (nor was it by the Constitutional Treaty). The Treaties at the moment (Rome and Maastricht) form the current constitution of the EU, and the Lisbon Treaty amends these treaties: no extra status will be conferred on them than that which they already have. The supremacy of Community law was established before Ireland joined the EC in 1973.

    The value of the guarantees depends in part on your point of view. If you believe the Treaty really effected those areas, then it will be effective. However, I believe that these guarantees are simply stating the status quo under the Lisbon Treaty had it been passed, and its main value is in making the limits of the Treaty clear.

    Further pooling of sovereignty is subject to each member state's constitutional requirements, and this is explicitly stated. In Ireland, this means a referendum, and in other member states it requires the support of a majority or super majority in the legislature.

    As for being made to vote again, I've written a short reply to that before. Link: http://theeuropeancitizen.blogspot.com/2009/04/young-irish-pro-lisbon-welcome-to.html?showComment=1240712280000#c2815717230295477557