5, November, 2009
The Lisbon Treaty is taking Europe into the 21st century. Don’t believe me. That is what the Europa.eu site declares. Europa is the European information site that still has not had the courage in all its existence to publish the full text of the Schuman Declaration at the origin of the European Community.
Europa.eu is wrong. What the Lisbon Treaty does is to take Europe back into the 19th century. The political designers of the confusing and confused treaty appear to have forgotten two centuries of history. They have in mind something like the Congress of Europe. It is a Europe that denies supranational democracy. They are carelessly ignorant that the supranational system of democracy is the key to resolve the global crises of the twenty-first century: like the Energy crisis through an Energy Community, the global environmental crisis bringing disease, starvation and wars, the financial crisis and its toxic morals, the developing ideological crisis and global lawlessness.
Political parties are deceiving themselves when they believe that they alone should control Europe’s future. They do not speak for all the people. They act against the majority opinion in referendums. And they do not fulfill the obligations they signed up to in previous treaties giving powers to civil society and holding pan-European elections.
The main lines of the Lisbon Treaty owe its expression to the practice of Charles de Gaulle, not Robert Schuman. It has nothing to do with reinforcing a supranational democratic Europe. De Gaulle wanted to stop the advance of democracy – unless it said Yes to him. He demanded a French constitution that would fit him and exclude the other candidates. He was a man whose vision was firmly set on the politics of Napoleon and the later Congress of Europe. Napoleon ended his European career in military defeat. The Congress was subverted and dissolved by war.
Robert Schuman announced this democratic Europe more than fifty years in advance of this century. He spoke about it at the United Nations and in major cities of Europe and North America. It was a more comprehensive democracy yet simpler.
In the Community system there was one person clearly responsible for talking to non Member countries, like USA, on matters designated in the treaties. That is the president of the Commission. When de Gaulle seized power in France in 1958, he refused this and multiplied Europe’s representatives for Community matters. Why? Because the Grand Charles did not like the idea of someone other than the great himself or his designated flunky dealing with French affairs, whether coal, steel, wine or cheeses.
This is the dissonance leaders have yet to resolve. Europe had agreed on common tariffs and a common market. Schuman provided for all citizens to participate in decisions, because they could affect a citizen’s livelihood. Areas of mutual agreement should be defined in Communities. That is not what the politicians are proposing. Today we need an Energy Community, something the Lisbon Treaty does not recognize. Post-Gaullist Europeans confused the matter further. Under the Nice system there are three chiefs and there will in fact be more presidents each with a thumb in the pie under Lisbon. Don’t talk to me about streamlining diplomacy! In fact embassies have also increased in numbers abroad, contrary to the concepts or dreams of Lisbon.
If the Lisbon Treaty were a means to organise Europe in the 21st century, it would already be a little late. We are in 2009 and the 21st century began on 1st January 2001. (The century did not begin in 2000 because there was no year zero AD, Anno Domini or CE, Common Era)
The so-called Lisbon reforms follow the model of the Congress of Europe. It was an utter failure. Why?
1. The Congress system was based on secret diplomacy. We still have the Council of Ministers meeting in secret and with umpteen hundred secret committees running the rules.
2. The Congress system led to the rule of the strong against the weak. Prussia dominated the Continent by blood and iron, with the force of arms and military expansion. The present day reformers still look to a Franco-German axis – a Gaullist idea – that was never a part of the supranational system of democracy. In a Community all members are equal.
3. The Congress system encouraged political deceit and manoeuvring. The so-called reformers today ignore referendums that say No. They force countries like Ireland and Denmark to vote twice until their arm is twisted enough by threats of expulsion or second class citizenship. This is in stark contrast to how referendums are held in other countries or other circumstances. For example, when the Greek Cypriots voted No to the UN plan for settlement, did anyone ask the Greek Cypriots to vote again?
4. The Congress was completely unable to control the nationalist movements and the ensuing wars. The so-called reformers have made the Commission a collection of national representatives. This, too was decided in a secret Council meeting, without a legal basis, because the decision was made at a time when most countries could not approve changes either in their parliaments or in referendums. Their members of parliament had approved something else, requiring a reduction of posts. No one asked them to vote again and change their minds. The denial of democracy today is resulting in plummeting support for political parties and a great deal of frustration from the public at overpaid and corrupt politicians. Modern leaders are involved with many wars outside the Community, showing that they have not grasped the basic principles of making peace inside the Community.
5. The Congress system was unable to deal with the technological changes lying at the resurgence of some economies. Today we are faced with multiple, major global crises, financial, environmental, legal and ideological. Much of this is the consequence of industrialization and modern technology. Do our leaders grasp the moral issues in these technologies?
6. Congress, as an international system based on diplomacy alone, it did not come to grips with the most frightening phenomenon of the time. This was the creation of armament cartels that were intent to sell arms to both sides of a simmering dispute. Arms firms of Germany, Britain, France, Italy, USA and others, colluded to encourage an arms race. The cartels armed the Balkans and re-armed themselves, hypocritically citing the fear of the enemies’ new armaments. This inevitably led to three major tragedies, the Franco-Prussian war, and two World Wars. Today’s world involves global cartels and global forces. Instead of increasing the anti-cartel powers of the Community, the reformers are intent on destroying them.
7. Most importantly the Congress failed because it was based mainly on the permissive selfishness of nations, vying to outdo each other. That path ends in war. Today’s reformers are moving the levers of democratic power out of the hands of individuals and legitimate organisations in civil society to the exclusive control of a handful of party political bureaucrats who act in secret. They lack legitimacy, because they deny non-party members full rights.
The real Community system had as a goal to improve the moral basis for national pride in a democratic community of democratic states. For that to work, nations have to agree to consult all the people and to have a fully independent honest broker, the European Commission, to propose and manage common programmes of mutual interest.
Instead we have now the corrupt take-over of the Commission by political parties. I say corrupt because they deny the legitimate place for non-political civil society to speak and debate. They replace this democratic organ with secret committees and a swarm of lobbyists who speak to officials without democratic supervision. And they recognize only referendums that say Yes to them and ignore or subvert those that say No. Political parties were often the source of major disputes and wars in the past. They are wedded to special interests. That is why the founding fathers said that the Commission should instead be composed of experienced persons, totally independent of any sectoral interest, including parties.
The Community system provided the means to aid the creation of European party political groupings. They are now misusing this power. And these groupings never agreed to have direct elections based on a single electoral law for the whole population. That was what all the treaties required.
The total independence of the Commission is the key feature that the founding fathers decided was needed to end two thousand years of constant wars. The Lisbon Treaty denies this innovation. Its key feature is control of all institutions, not even by intergovernmentalism, but by a secretive party political elite composed of two or three main parties. The ideologies too often are embedded in a nineteenth century vision of dialecticism.
So now we are to have a reform that looks unblinkingly to the past for solutions. It refuses the system that brought Europe the longest period of peace it has ever known. It has not made a checklist of the treaty promises that it has not yet fulfilled before trying to destroy the system.
The present action of the party political cartel betrays public trust. After a decade of this duplicity since the Constitutional Treaty was formulated and rejected, no doubt they will reap the consequences, big time.David Heilbron Price
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