The intergovernmental conference 2007 (IGC), which brokered the deal on the Treaty of Lisbon, is in some respects like a re-incarnation of the Holy Alliance, the compact between European sovereigns in 1815, well above the heads of their citizens.
Sometimes in mid October, if I remember correctly, I started looking and asking for readable, consolidated versions of the Reform Treaty, later to become the Treaty of Lisbon.
When I received an answer from a Finnish government source that the European Council had decided not to publish consolidations of the amending treaty, I could hardly believe my eyes. It just could not be true in our enlightened times, AD2007, I thought.
I pestered Finnish and Swedish authorities and EU institutions and received mostly vague and dilatory answers. Then I got a reply from the institutions of the European Union stating that consolidated versions of the amending treaty would be forthcoming only when the ratification processes were over and the treaty had entered into force.
This really got me going. How could the European Council and the Council, responsible for the intergovernmental conference, invent such a counter-productive ploy? How could the European Commission representing the general interest and the European Parliament representing the citizens acquiesce in this conspiracy of silence? Why did the main European think-tanks remain passive?
Everything in the European Union emanates from the treaties. No legislation and no action is allowed without a legal basis. The amending treaty was, this autumn, the single most important document of the European Union. If the whole communication effort of the EU had to be restricted to one matter, the new treaty had to be it, I thought.
Therefore, I started looking at the present and the coming treaties, the practices agreed by the institutions and the policy declarations of the Finnish and Swedish governments in order to evaluate the principles we have been taught and their application in practice.
What I found was a clash between words and deeds. Openness, transparency, accountability, equality, decisions taken near the citizens and hopeful blabber about re-engaging with the citizens, all lost their meaning when confronted with the maliciously imposed silence.
I can imagine few more effective means to self-tarnish the image of the member state governments and the EU institutions than to stonewall the publication of readable treaties.
Were it not for the complicity of the other EU institutions, this would be a damning picture of intergovernmentalism at work. Where was this counter-productive strategy invented? By diplomats less than totally committed to the light of day and public scrutiny? By their political masters, well versed in double-speak?
Principles aside, there are practical reasons for consolidated treaties well ahead of their entry into force. Actually, the EU institutions and national governments need handy tools, and probably have them. There are teachers and students, who need accessible materials. There are researchers, journalists, NGOs and businesses as well as regional and municipal officials. There are politicians at every level.
There are the citizens of the European Union. No matter if they are for or against the new institutional arrangements, or undecided, they have a right to user-friendly information. The opinions may differ, but the facts must be shared.
Since there are 23 official languages of the European Union, and the existing treaties as well as the new ones have been drafted jointly, the only sensible thing would be for the consolidated versions to be produced and published centrally, by the Council. Only this would guarantee equal treatment for (most) EU citizens.
Since the EU has failed miserably, one line of work has been to look for national or single language versions of the amending treaties. Before yesterday I had found ‘national’ consolidations in English, French, Spanish and Swedish.
Yesterday Nanne on the DJ Nozem blog (link in the column on the left) reported that a German student has compiled a consolidated version in German. With about 90 million Germanophones in the EU, this means plugging a really big hole. Only 18 more languages to go, said Nanne.
But it is almost unbelievable that the work has to be done by private individuals and more or less independent organisations. (That is why I likened the EU treaties to samizdat literature.)
Nanne’s post gave further backing to the claims about the deliberate nature of non-publishing from member states’ governments.
Yesterday another, positive but hesitant, step was taken. Eurooppatiedotus, i.e. Europe Information, which is part of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, discreetly updated two of its press releases on the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. The new text inserted promises consolidated versions (presumably in Finnish and Swedish) during the spring of 2008. I reported this on my Finnish and Swedish blogs.
This promise is a step forward. But, the consolidated treaties in force exist, and the final Treaty of Lisbon has been published in the Official Journal. Shouldn’t merging the two, and publishing the new consolidation on the web be a matter of days, rather than months?
I still am amazed at the short-sightedness of the European governments and their cronies. How could they knowingly enter upon a course which is bound to tarnish their image and undermine their credibility? Why did they embargo the convenient tools needed for democratic debate based on facts, not only by the rabid Europhobes, but by the pro-European citizens as well? Why have they chosen to multiply the efforts needed by students and teachers of EU politics and law?
The new Commission web site dedicated to the Treaty of Lisbon lacks the essential, i.e. the anticipatory consolidations of the treaties in every official language. Instead, it steadfastly refuses to give us consolidated versions before the Lisbon Treaty has entered into force.
Therefore, the search for consolidated treaties continues. All eyes are on individual governments, semi-private organisations and private individuals. It is up to you to break the deadlock.
Fortress Incommunicando is crumbling, but I am, as ever, grateful for every crumb of information on its demise.