Yesterday evening the Irish blog Semper Idem drew my attention to one of the more astounding positions I have seen on the EU Treaty of Lisbon: The Heritage on the Lisbon Treaty (13 May 2009).
On the Heritage Foundation’s blog The Foundry, Sally McNamara presents her view on the relations between the United States and Europe: A Lisbon Treaty Retrospective? (Posted May 13th, 2009 at 11.41am)
The last paragraph is worth reading on both shores of the Atlantic:
“The Lisbon Treaty is an affront to democracy that lacks any semblance of popular support or legitimacy. It also threatens the transatlantic relationship, and underscores the EU’s ambitions to become a global power and challenge American leadership on the world stage. If the Conservative’s make good on their pledge to take the Treaty to the British public, it will almost certainly be rejected and hopefully save Europe from itself.”
Legitimacy of Lisbon Treaty
First, we look at the legitimacy and popular support of the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Treaty of Lisbon was agreed by the democratically legitimate national governments of all 27 EU member states. It has been approved, according to their constitutional requirements, by the national parliaments in 26 of these member states.
The Lisbon Treaty does not alter the fundamental basis of the European Union.
Lisbon remains an international treaty and the European Union is still an organisation based on an international treaty between states.
Objectively, there was little cause to subject either the Constitutional or the Lisbon Treaty, of incremental reform, to a referendum.
It is absurd to contend that the Lisbon Treaty lacks legitimacy, where it has been approved.
Some national leaders had stupidly promised national referendums on the previous Constitutional Treaty, but these were settled during the parliamentary ratification processes concerning the slightly watered-down Treaty of Lisbon. The legitimacy point is moot.
The exception is Ireland, where a constitutional interpretation requires a referendum. A majority of the Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty, hoping for at “better deal”.
The No side never presented a credible formula for the better deal, but the second referendum in Ireland will be based on the “better deal” the Irish government has secured (although the finer details have not been published).
Popular support for the Lisbon Treaty as for many government measures is far from overwhelming, but we live under the rules of representative democracy. Governments are even expected to “do the right thing” for the long term, despite short term unpopularity.
The Lisbon Treaty is a complicated document, resembling a technical manual more than a rousing political document. It is hard to understand for ordinary voters, and much of the vocal opposition seems to be based on misunderstanding or misrepresentation of its contents and implications. The less educated were more prone to vote No in Ireland.
Lacking “any semblance of popular support” is a wild exaggeration, but the political atmosphere in one major member state, the United Kingdom, can be described as Eurotoxic. Still, even there both Houses of Parliament approved the Lisbon Treaty and the ratification procedure has been formally concluded. Under the rules of representative democracy, the decision is legitimate.
If we want to discuss lack of democratic legitimacy, we have to move to the European level.
The Lisbon Treaty fails to bring about an effective and democratically legitimate government at EU level, but that is hardly what McNamara is complaining about.
Following the Golden Rule, she should advocate the Articles of Confederation for the United States, if she wants Europe to preserve the Treaty of Nice.
I find it astounding when someone extols the virtues of the US Constitution, but wants to deny Europeans even a pale shadow.