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A Second Look at the Treaty of Lisbon

The general idea that is being promoted by the European Union and its supporters is that the bloc enables greater democracy, which in fact, was used as one of the main arguments in favour of the Treaty of Lisbon. In addition to a more democratic Europe, the bloc claimed that the treaty would make the EU more efficient, and that - it did says Oliver Taylor.

However, while the Lisbon Treaty effectively empowered the centralised administration presiding over the Eurozone nations, it inevitably resulted in a loss for democracy for anyone within the European Union’s now tightened grip. 

Ask yourself, what exactly comes to mind when a government finds itself strengthened beyond necessity, when its ambitions grow and so does its influence? Is it democracy, personal freedom and sovereignty, or is it dictatorship and totalitarianism? Most have heard of the Lisbon Treaty, yet it appears that few can actually grasp the extent of its implications for individual European nations and, considering the current political developments in the region, it is crucial that we see the constitutional basis of the European Union for what it really is- and what it has been striving to achieve all along. 

The Treaty of Lisbon is an internationally binding treaty between the EU’s member states, an agreement that amends the Treaty on European Union (formerly known as the 1993 Maastricht Treaty) and the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (formerly known as the 1957 Treaty of Rome), along with the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community and additional consolidated protocols, annexes and declarations attached to the treaties of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty was intended to serve as the continuation of the process that was put in motion by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 and the Treaty of Nice in 2001, a process that would eventually culminate in centralised EU power, masqueraded as efficiency. After several obstacles, the treaty was signed on 13th December 2007, sealed 5 days later and made effective on 1st December 2009.



At the time, in order for a treaty to enter into force across the European Union, a ratification by all of its member states was required. The process was put into question when Ireland threw a significant hurdle in the Lisbon Treaty’s path by initially rejecting it through a referendum held in June 2008. In 1987, the Supreme Court of Ireland made a landmark ruling, known as Crotty v. An Taoiseach – a decision stating that in order for Ireland to ratify any substantive amendment to the Treaties of the European Union, the Irish constitution had to be amended as well, consequently requiring a referendum in the Republic of Ireland for every major change or addition to a EU treaty. Thus, when the Lisbon Treaty, then known as the Reform Treaty, was still being drafted in June 2007, the Irish had already determined that a plebiscite would have to be conducted before any further decisions were made. 

The vote occurred when the “Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2008” proposed a change to the Irish Constitution in order to allow for the Irish ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, so that it may take effect on the tentative date of 1st January 2009. The first referendum was held on 12th June 2008 and the Irish electorate rejected the proposal with 53.4% to 46.6%, as 53.1% of the population turned out for the vote. However, since the European Union is not known to take no for an answer, it had adjusted its strategy and, following a brief period of reflection and a renegotiation of specific exclusions between the bloc and the Irish government, the EU had finally pushed for a decisive victory in a second referendum that saw the Irish accept the Treaty of Lisbon on 2nd October 2009, with a voter turnout of 59% and a “Yes” vote of 67.13% against 32.87%.

In practice, this situation and others before it, such as the rejection of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe by the French in May 2005 and the Dutch in June 2005, clearly demonstrate that the European Union’s agenda does not take into consideration the concerns of its individual member states. When the electorate resort to democratic means in order to oppose the bloc’s ravenous expansion, the decisions that stem from their votes are ignored and eventually overturned if they do not further the interests of the European Union. 

Just as it had occurred with the 2001 Treaty of Nice, Ireland was manipulated into a second referendum after the first had rejected the amendments to the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Rome. In a similar fashion, both France and the Netherlands have voted against the Constitutional Treaty, yet the latter was simply reiterated as part of the Treaty of Lisbon and imposed upon those who rejected it anyway. And now, the EU is attempting to do the same with the United Kingdom’s decision to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and withdraw itself from the bloc’s roster. So what is it that Britain wants to escape from by leaving the EU and what is it that Ireland wanted to prevent by rejecting the Treaty of Lisbon in its first referendum?



What millions of Europeans across the continent are still oblivious to, is that the Treaty of Lisbon, which amended the constitutional basis of the European Union, has greatly empowered the bloc, turning it into a centralised power whose newfound political influence in the region is undermining the very basis of democracy by allowing the EU administration to enjoy unprecedented, dictatorial authority over its subjects; and that is a problem, for the constituent countries are no longer regarded as equal members of the club, but mere subordinates that exist to serve the best interest of their supranational leadership. As part of the Lisbon Treaty’s modifications to the Treaty on European Union, more precisely the Article 47, the European Union has been given the status of a legal personality and, now a consolidated entity, it has succeeded the European Community with an even greater power to independently sign international treaties in its own name, to join international organisations and negotiate international agreements. Thus, it has technically assumed the role of a centralised government that rules over subject nations, not all that different from the concept of the USSR.

In response to the obstacles that the EU had previously encountered when dealing with individual countries, such as Ireland for instance, that have opposed its reign and delayed the expansion of its influence by rejecting proposed treaties, the Treaty of Lisbon changed the rules for qualified majority voting in the Council under Article 31. Since the amendment came into force on 1st December 2009, the European Union has adopted the ‘one size fits all’ policy,  where the interests of individual states are sacrificed in favour of the majority’s benefit, thus further undermining the sovereignty of its member nations as it chokes their ability to protest the decisions taken by the bloc. On top of that, as of 2014, the meaning of a qualified majority has also changed: the majority rule now requires that at least 55% of all member states, comprising at least 65% of all EU citizens, vote in favour for a proposal to pass. 



The EU has been increasingly expanding its authority over the past few decades and the Treaty of Lisbon only further solidifies its unchallenged dominance over its member states. Having established a common foreign affairs and security policy, the bloc has reserved for itself the right to take military decisions, which poses a potential threat to individual nations in case the supranational policy would take a hawkish stance and drag its subjects to war. Furthermore, with the primacy of European law over national law, the countries that constitute the bloc’s roster have forfeited a great deal of their ability to decide what is best for them and, seeing as one country’s situation is never quite the same as another’s, the EU’s one size does not actually fit all. 

On the financial side, the establishment of the European Central Bank at the top of all institutions has imposed the EU’s rule on the local economies. The Euro, as per adherence to the Lisbon Treaty, has been foisted upon the European nations and whilst the transition to one currency was supposed to open doors and facilitate business in the region, some countries (PIIGS) would certainly beg to differ. Sensibly, the British Pound has remained steadfast on maintaining its independence, but were the Article 50 not triggered and Britain left under EU’s rule, the latter would have inevitably dismantled the Pound Sterling. Now that the UK has utilised the Lisbon Treaty’s succession clause, we will be able to witness the full effects of it once it withdraws from the bloc, but one thing is clear, the EU is not interested in making it easy for Great Britain to reclaim its sovereignty.   EG


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