Lisbon Treaty has grave implications for democracy

On October 2 Irish voters are being forced to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty in one of the most cynical exercises ever carried out by the European Union. Ireland is being bullied into voting for a second time on exactly the same treaty because it had the temerity to reject it last June.

Yet, while Ireland gets two referendums, no other country is being allowed to vote at all. Even Ireland's EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy accepted that if the treaty had been put to a public vote, it would have been rejected by 95 per cent of member states.

The recent summit that supposedly gave Ireland certain "guarantees" was a carefully orchestrated charade and its declarations on workers' rights and collective bargaining will not be legally binding. Moreover, under the revised treaty, the European Court of Justice would be even more powerful and able to make further draconian rulings on trade-union rights over and above those already decided against collective bargaining, the right to strike and the right to work. This court only exists to put in place EU rules and the internal (neoliberal) market and place everything in the hands of big capital, so Irish workers will not escape its rulings and case law.

In short, without any mandate to do so, the European Union is seeking to create a super state with one government in Brussels. The Council of Ministers would be turned into that government. Those ministers would then be responsible to the EU and not be answerable to their elected parliaments. Currently about 80 per cent of legislation which is put in place in Britain emanates from Brussels, along with key common policies and directives.

Yet the EU is having trouble pulling off this slow-motion coup d'etat without exposing its anti-democratic logic. French and Dutch voters rejected the original EU Constitution and, according to EU and international law, if only one member state does not ratify the Treaty it becomes null and void.

The revamped version, the Lisbon Treaty, should also have been dead and buried after the first Irish referendum. Now the EU is attempting to pull off the same trick used when Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Special opt-outs were devised to win over the Danish electorate and the ruse worked. But the opt-outs have come to nothing beyond Denmark remaining outside the euro-zone.

Three other member states have also not yet ratified the Lisbon Treaty: Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. In a serious blow to German ratification, the country's Constitutional Court has decided that the Lisbon Treaty is incompatible with the sovereignty of the German state and new laws and safeguards are required before ratification. Acting on a complaint registered by 50 deputies from across the political spectrum, including the left-wing party Die Linke, the court found that the neo-liberal charter contravened a number of national laws and matters to do with transport.

A general election is due to take place in September and German elites are in a desperate scramble to bend German law to meet the demands laid out in the treaty before parliament is dissolved. At the same time a recent poll revealed that over 80 per cent of Germans want a referendum on Lisbon. The court ruling also raises serious questions about the role of national parliaments within the Lisbon Treaty and whether similar democratic safeguards should not be required for all member states.

Czech President Vasclav Klaus, who has vowed not to sign the treaty until after an Irish Yes vote, has argued that the demands by the German court have not corrected the shortcomings of the Lisbon Treaty.

"I don't believe it's possible to eliminate the well-known faults of the Treaty of Lisbon by means of an accompanying law. It would be too easy," Mr Klaus declared, adding: "It's not by chance that they propose resolving the contradictions between the treaty and the constitution by changing the country's legislation and not the treaty."

Mr Klaus has also indicated that he would wait for a decision in Britain if a referendum were held as promised by all three major parties in the House of Commons.

Poland's President Lech Kaczynski has already signed the Bill allowing him to ratify Lisbon but has not signed the actual instrument of ratification and says that it is pointless to do so until the people of Ireland have voted on the treaty.

Ultimately, the Irish government has failed to stand by the verdict of the Irish electorate and instead promised the EU that it will win a second referendum.

The democratic and EU-critical movement in Britain has to make clear that we too are opposed to the Lisbon Treaty to show the Irish electorate that they are not alone. Taking such a stance will also assist the Polish and Czech presidents in finding reasons for not signing off the treaty.

In the run-up to the general election in Britain we have to press the Labour, Conservative and Liberal-Democrat parties to carry out their promises to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The labour and trade union movement has been alerted to the implications of the "free movement of capital, services, goods and labour" within the EU and the "race to the bottom" it creates in terms of wages and conditions.

This must be extended to an understanding that there are grave implications for all forms of democracy if we become enslaved by a treaty that, in the words of McCreevy, 95 per cent of Europeans do not want.

Brian Denny is secretary of Trade Unionists Against the EU Constitution. This article first appeared in the Morning Star.