A Treaty Too Far
Horsley, William, The World Today
The Lisbon Treaty, the successor to theEuropeanUnion's rejected constitutional treaty, is set to come into force at the end of this year if Irish voters accept it in a second referendumearly thismonth. LeadingEuropean politicians see it as the blueprint for an effectiveEuropean government, fulfilling an ambition bornwhen theBerlinWall fell twenty years ago.But is Lisbon a treaty too far for the people of Europe?And are newdivisions undoing the dreamof a continent at peacewith itself and surrounded by a 'circle of friends', especially in the east?
iF THE IRISH REFERENDUM ON OCTOBER 2 clears the way for the European Union's (EU) Lisbon Treaty to come into force in the New Year as widely expected, it will be a landmark on the long journey towards a continent-wide system of government. There will be collective decisionmaking and extensive powers in both domestic and foreign policy, working alongside and through national and regional governments.
The Treaty ends the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs for allmembers. It will bringmajor constitutional change in Britain, whichmay in the long run prove even bigger than the country's original accession to the European Economic Community or the Maastricht Treaty which created the EU.
But in the words of former Britishminister Gisela Stuart, Europe's politicians have failed because 'we have not taken the people with us'. Europe is polarised.While sceptics renew their efforts to reverse the centralisation of political power in the EU through national politics and a new centre-right anti-federalist grouping in the European Parliament, proponents of the European integration project see Lisbon as an important prize and show growing intolerance towards its critics.
The German constitutional court has spelled out the legal position, saying that the EU has accumulated sweeping powers through successive treaties, including Lisbon, so that 'in some fields of policy the EU has a formthat corresponds to that of a federal state'. The British body politic is largely unprepared, so the changes will come as a shock. Themainstream media needs to sharply raise its game, to start holding the EU to account for what it now is: a government for Europe.
The Treaty's key provisions are the new or upgraded institutions in Brussels - above all the office of a full-time President of the European Council and the strengthenedHigh Representative for Foreign Affairs who will head the world's largest diplomatic service; a wideranging shift of legislative and scrutiny powers fromWestminster to the European parliament; EUresponsibility for new fields such as energy and public health; a host of decisions being taken by EUministers on law and justicematters, and the European Court's jurisdiction spreading into the sensitive heartlands of British domestic law such as policing, immigration and civil rights.
The radical new principle in this Treaty is thatmajority voting becomes standard for collective decisions on allmatters except a few protected areas, such as core aspects of taxation and foreign policy.
Yet Europe has become such a political minefield for the twomain British political parties justmonths before an election, thatthe progressive interlocking of the vitalmachinery of government with the rest of the continent is largely treated with embarrassment or evasion. Lisbon's big shock for the British public will be to find that it has signed up to a radical new level of integration, despite assurances to the contrary.
Already, government departments including the Home Office and JusticeMinistry are having to gear up for the new regime, in which they will need to sendmanymore officials to Brussels and the parliament in Strasbourg on a regular basis.
London will immediately face tricky choices about how far to exercise its special right to stay out of aspects of the Union's evolving so-called area of Freedom, Security and Justice. …