I asked my Witherspoon Fellows, Jan Ledochowski and Simona Beskova, to attend a talk on Tuesday by the man behind the Irish vote against the Treaty of Lisbon, which would have further expanded and consolidated the European Union. Their report follows:
On July 15, 2008 my Witherspoon colleague Simona Beskova and I attended a lecture by Declan Ganley, leader of Ireland's "No" campaign to the Lisbon Treaty. As two Europeans, one Slovakian and one Austrian, we found it exciting and inspiring to hear how the brave citizens of this little island defended Europe's liberty and democracy.
The 12th of June 2008 was indeed a day for history books in Ireland - and for Europe. That day Ireland spoke out for 500 million European citizens who had no possibility to do so and rejected the Lisbon Treaty. Although this clearly means that the Lisbon treaty is dead, Ganley noted that European Politicians try to ignore Ireland's "No". Barroso, President of the European Commission, said that we shouldn't rush to conclusions and that the Treaty was still alive. Germany's Foreign Minister Steinmeyer stated that the ratification process had to continue and France's President Sarcozy even called the Irishmen "bloody fools".
Ganley said that the Irish are many things, but they are no fools. They realized that the Lisbon Treaty was an almost exact copy of the European Constitution that has been rejected by the citizens of France, the Netherlands and Denmark. The Constitution would have created an EU President and a Foreign and Security Minister who despite their large power and influence were not accountable at the ballot box. This would not protect the citizens but the Elite in Brussels.
A democratic reaction to the defeat of the Constitution would have been a substantial revision of the draft. The answer of elites in Brussels, however, was that "They didn't know what they voted for" and the French, Dutch and Danish population was labeled Anti-European. The elites in Brussels did not listen to the Europeans and changed only the language in order to avoid referenda. The outcome was the Lisbon Treaty, of which a high European official said: "It is unreadable, it is a success."
Ganley concluded that one thing must be clearly stated - the old-fashioned Euro-skepticism in Ireland is dead. The European Union is one of the most successful peace projects in world history. But if this project is to succeed it must be rooted in the people's will and not be a project of undemocratic unelected elites. Why shouldn't there be a constitution that the ordinary citizen can read and understand, rather than the telephone-book that is the Lisbon Treaty? Such a Constitution can be discussed by Europeans, who can accept it or reject. Europe belongs to its citizens and Ireland handed it back to them.
-- Jan Ledochowski & Simona Beskova