Wednesday 23 July 2008

Italian Senate approved Lisbon Treaty

Wednesday evening the Italian Senate (Senato della Repubblica) debated the government bill on ratification of the EU Lisbon Treaty:

“2. Ratifica ed esecuzione del Trattato di Lisbona che modifica il Trattato sull'Unione europea e il Trattato che istituisce la Comunità europea e alcuni atti connessi, con atto finale, protocolli e dichiarazioni, fatto a Lisbona il 13 dicembre 2007 - Relatore DINI (759)”

The Senate voted unanimously for approval (286) against 0.

Source: Mercoledì 23 luglio 2008, Ratifiaca del Trattato di Lisbona : via libera all’unanimità

The Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei deputati) still has to vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Unanimously? This vote does no favours to Italy. It calls into question the democratic character of the state. Democracy is built on the reconciliation of differences. If there are no differences, this suggests that they have been excluded.

  2. The truth is that the only party opposing the treaty (and Europe in general), Northern League, agreed to vote yes out of coalition loyalty.

    The other (outspoken) anti-eu party is instead of extreme left, Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation), but has lost the elections so badly that it has currently no seat in Parliament.

    I guess that other prominent eurosceptics eventually gave up and didn't attend the vote.

  3. Seachtu,

    So you prefer Spain, I presume, where a handful of representatives voted against in both chambers?

    My guess is that the differences to be reconciled are to be found on a different level.

    Like sending a signal to Ireland(?)

  4. Igor, Italy,

    I had some technical difficulties during the Senate webcast, which started only at 19 CET well into the debate, but there was an impressing array of arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of the Lisbon Treaty.

    Not being an expert on Italian politics, I was surprised to see the unanimous vote(s).

  5. In Italy dissent does not exist, as all is about pay-off.

  6. First of all, the vote was unanimous, but more or less 36 senators didn't attend the vote. I guess that at least some of them were opposed but just gave up considering the overwhelming yes majority.
    The radical left has been wiped out of Parliament in the last elections. Before 1980, communist propaganda depicted EEC as the "economic bureau" of Nato, so the hard left has more or less kept that notion.

    All opposition parties, Democratic Party and Italy of Values on the centre-left coalition and the christian democrat Udc, are pro-european.
    On the centre-right majority, the new "People of Freedom" party, combining Mr.Berlusconi's supporters and right-wing National Alliance, show a wide array of positions but it's mostly pro-eu. Yesterday, their spokeperson in the Senate criticized Eu institutions by reopening the polemic about the lack of reference to the Christian and Jewish religions in the Preamble, because they wish to show their closeness to the Vatican. It's mostly a majority-opposition skirmish with few relevance in the actual policy of the Government, in my opinion.

    while the northern separatists of Northern League are committed anti-europe. They voted yes out of coalition loyalty and because they think that anyway the treaty is doomed after the referendum. A position quite close to that of the Polish President.

  7. So! One has a democracy where the opposition, because it is - by definition - in a minority, does not bother to show up! If the unanimous vote is intended to send a signal to Ireland,which I doubt, it is counter-productive.

    Andrew Duff MEP, on his website, correctly points out that European leaders need to reflect on their collective responsibility for failing to explain Europe. As I have endeavoured to set out on the Libertas thread, explanation starts by defining what the EU actually is, and not what some people think it to be.

    One of the elements that has gone awry is the involvement of national parliaments. This needs to be rectified and can only be achieved, ipso facto, in capitals, not Brussels.

    Belatedly, the Irish Parliament is reconvening in early September (unheard of in the lazy parliamentary world) to establish a cross-party committee to advise on the response to the failure to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.

    In the wake of the first negative Nice referendum, a National Forum on Europe was set up to great accolades from the Commission and other Member States (who were careful enough, however, not to emulate it) and has spent several years now, and a lot of the taxpayers money, in search of the European demos. The result was predicatble viz an increase in euroscepticism rather than a decrease because such a thing does not exist nor, more importantly, is it needed.

    Was it not Bismarck who said that the citizen should not enquire too deeply into either the process of sausage or law-making?

  8. Tapestry,

    Unheard of in your neck of the woods, I presume(?)

  9. Igor, Italy,

    Thank you for your comments on the Italian parties. The shifting landscape of these latest decades is such that one would need a refresher course once in a while to keep up with events.

    Personally, I was touched to see Emilio Colombo speak (was it really he, I thought; it felt like out of a history book; a life Senator, I guessed).

    The other thing which caught my attention, in the opposite sense, was a representative of the Northern League who sounded like a character out of 'Euroskepticism 101', and then they voted for approval. Ecco!

  10. The unanimous vote simply reflects the fact that, in Italy, there's few opposition to the Eu and the Lisbon Treaty. The only Eurosceptic party considers this a side issue not worth to trigger a confrontation with their ally, Mr. Berlusconi. And Northern League is not a tame partner, for in 1994 forced Berlusconi's first government to resign.

    Pro-eu feeling is widespread in Italy, you have to link "Brussels" with raising prices, immigration from Moslem countries, globalization and American imperialism (this one only works with left supporters, of course) to trigger some mild anti-eu reactions.

  11. Seachtu,

    A few respectful comments with regard to your sausage making.

    Forgive and correct me, if I am wrong, but my impression has been that in English, perhaps especially in England, most lawyers were formed, as was public opinion, on the basis of the European Economic Community.

    Even when curricula came to be called 'EU Law', they consisted of a brief historical introduction, judicial proceedings (geared to the four freedoms) and substantive law consisting of the common market (four freedoms, competition).

    (Later the scope seems to have begun to broaden, but other policy areas, common foreign, security and defence are late entrants, if mentioned at all.)

    I admit that I belong to those uninformed bumpkins who want to form their own opinion about what the European Union is needed for and what might not be fully existent within the present system of 'real intgration'.

    I therefore come out with a political union, prospectively there to enhance the security and prosperity of its citizens.

    Possibly, the different perspectives may explain differences in outlook and proposed remedies.

    For me, a fairly natural conclusion is that the European Union needs political power in chosen fields, and that this power should emanate directly from the citizens of the EU.

    A simpler structure is more easily explained, and in the end I think that EU citizens would accept a democratic structure as legitimate, given the chance.

    Actually, I think that this process would be less time consuming than the repeated failures to explain the present structures and workings, given the plethora of attempted and failed PR campaigns.

    Your detail about the national parliaments. My basic approach is that interparliamentary contacts are fine and that at least a few countries already have pretty smooth relations between government and parliament before matters are decided at EU level, but that we do not need a host of 'third chambers'.

    The whole question would look different in a union with a directly elected parliament competent to handle all questions within EU powers, and with a politically responsible government.

  12. The problem is that you are not dealing with the questions posed, rather you are philosophising about your view of a Utopia in the Europe of the future on the basis of a demonstrably mistaken view of current reality.

    As I mentioned in another post, questioning the democratic legitimacy of the current set-up is to question the credibility of your own democracy. The logical consequence would be to deny legitimacy to the law of the European Community, which would be a bit odd in a lawyer.

    Apropos, despite Igor's comment about the "overwhelming support" in Italy for the EU, the country has one of the worst records for the transposition of EC directives, a responsibility of her parliamentarians. But it is easier to vote unanimously for pie in the sky than to get down to daily realities.

  13. Seachtu,

    On the one hand, you want to clarify what the European Union should be about.

    On the other hand, you dismiss as philosophising any attempt to try to formulate what we need the EU for, and what it should look like to achieve these aims.

    Let us agree that different levels and perspectives are possible.

    We can look at existing directives and try to understand what they mean and how they have been interpreted.

    We can look at the EU as a whole, posing questions about the tasks it is needed for and how to equip it to become commensurate with the tasks.

  14. Seachtu,
    well I don't see the connection between alleged euroscepticism and poor transpositon of directives into national law.
    Denmark is hardly counted among euro-enthusiast countries, but if I'm not wrong it has one of the best records on the issue.
    This has more to do with good governance and best practice in administration of the state: I don't have numbers at hand but I thinK we can agree that Denmark is better positioned than Italy in these fields and indeed than most countries in the world.
    Anyway, this is (transposition of directives) mainly a problem of the past, because now there is a different mechanism: directives are enacted by the Government through legislative delegation by the Parliament (how do you call it "orders in council"?) and the delay is a year on average.

    By the way, I think that directive is a rather messy instrument, because make Parliaments to lose time accepting something decided outside, and it can often bring rather poor results in terms of "harmonization".

    This pie in the sky is actually a treaty that simply overhauls the functioning of Eu, adding some democracy and providing some instruments that, after some other future treaty, COULD bring a federal and democratic union. So, it's not a pie in the sky, it's a pie on earth, just cooked by a very undecided chef.

    You state that the institutons were never meant to be federal by the founding fathers, but I don't agree. There was a wide consensus among them about a future union, the dissent was on the timetable, the shape and the degree of (future) integration. It was only with De Gaulle that a true radical opposing view of Europe emerged.

  15. Igor. Apologies. I expressed myself badly. The pie in the sky relates to the vision of Europe being sought beyond the Lisbon Treaty, not the treaty itself (which you can see from my posts on the Libertas thread I consider to be a vast improvement on the CT).

    The point about the role of parliaments is that a supposedly eurosceptic country like Denmark - and the UK which has the best recotrd - is much better at abiding by European law, in effect helping to construct the real Europe, than Italy with all the supposed fervour of her political class for Europe.

    As to the federal destiny of Europe, it is not what the founding fathers had in mind that matters but what was put in the Treaty of Rome. What is in it, in terms of fundamental decision-making building blocks, remains untouched in the Treaty of Lisbon. The system, although it does not correspond to a classic federal system, has stood the test of time.

    Replying to Ralf, the nub of what I am saying is summed up in the hihbilly wisdom "if it aint broke, do'nt fix it". What has happened in Ireland should be an object lesson to everyone in Europe. The political class debated a "pie in the sky" version of Europe which had nothing to do with reality and we can see the result.

    I think it was Monnet who said that Europe would be built on the basis of a series of small steps. Let's get back to the small steps and forget the seven-league boots.

  16. Ralf. Replying for consistency on this thread to your last comment on Libertas, the exact wording from the preamble of the Treaty of Rome is "determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe". The wording from Van Gend and Loos "The European Economic Community constitutes a new legal order of international law for the benefit of which the Member States have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and the subjects of which comprise not only the Member States but also their nationals".

    It was the ECJ, in this and other judgements, that established the unique supranational character of the EU ( "new legal order") and the system of "cooperative federalism" that I have described. The use as a political justification of an ever closer Union "among the peoples of Europe" came later. The Treaty simply does not specify anywhere what the ECJ concluded. Neither does the Treaty of Lisbon as the degree of supranationality involved depends not alone on the legal instrument but also its content.

    Various cases between the Council and the Commission and/or the MS have copper-fastened the structure. The Lisbon Treaty states it with even more clarity in Article 4 TEU, notably "The Member States shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union".

    The structure isn't broken. There is no need to fix it.

  17. Seachtu,

    The structure may satisfy the leaders of the member states, but not necessarily the requirement of democratic legitimacy at the right level.

  18. I agree with Mr.Grahn on democratic legitimacy.
    I would like to add that the present structure is broken in all the fields where unanimity exists, in particular in foreign relations and defence.
    Also, the Council suffers from the fact that we have a mainly legislative body composed of people that naturally see themselves as part of the executive arm.

  19. Seachtu
    "The point about the role of parliaments is that a supposedly eurosceptic country like Denmark - and the UK which has the best recotrd - is much better at abiding by European law, in effect helping to construct the real Europe, than Italy with all the supposed fervour of her political class for Europe."

    Well, I'm guessing that what I said above regarding good governance and Denmark applies also to the Uk.
    I would not comment about the Uk being better than Italy in building the real EU. I guess that Norway is even better, not to mention Canada! I'm just joking.
    The point that I was making, anyway , was not about boasting my country's europeanism, but I was reporting what I believe to be a fact. There is no widespread opposition to Europe or the Lisbon Treaty, here in Italy. That, and the absence of left hardliners, do explains the unanimous no.
    I think that it's a very widespread
    but superficial feeling, probably specularly similar to British euroscepticism.

  20. Seachtu,

    As an addition to Igor's comment, we see an example of different levels and contexts.

    Your core internal market is important, as is interstate commerce if we look at the United States.

    But the Irish (farmers) seem to be addicted to CAP subsidies with the best (as does official Finland, admittedly).

    Look at how Britain has dragged down practically every round of treaty reform by its uncooperative and retrograde policies, brandishing intergovernmentalism and unanimity rule in areas where Europeans have real common interests in an increasingly demanding world. Farsighted?

  21. There we have it. The present system satisfies the democratically elected leaders of Europe and their parliaments but it does not satisfy you and Igor.

    To conclude, I agree with Igor's point that there is no comparison in terms of euroscepticism between Italy and the UK. My point was a different one. Being what might be described as well-informed euro-pragmatist, I look at the issue of which country is most loyally fulfilling its legal obligations vis-a-vis the Union. The UK wins hands down (insofar as it is participating, the opt-outs in relation to the AFSJ and "permanent derogation" from the euro being another story). The state of public opinion does not come into it.

    On reviewing my posts, I see that I damned all European leaders with the same brush in terms of overselling the European project, notably Giscard, author of the "great stumble backwards" as opposed to his intended "great leap forward" and place in the history books. The exception is, of course, Madam Merkel.

  22. Seachtu,

    Thank you for your well-informed euro-pragmatist comments, which have contributed greatly to the discussion about the European Union as it is.

  23. After seven British prime ministers since Eec accession, three conservatives, four labour we see the constant trend of denial, sabotaging and finally opting out. So far for the Uk being a builder of a better Eu.
    This - even if I'm a naive eurofederalist - doesn't involve any kind of moral judgement, as far as I'm concerned. But, either the LibDem are winning a general election some day or Britain will probably continue to be the aloof and estranged member of the union.

    The Eu need to develop properly and become a political union (dealing with foreign relations and defence) with democratic legitimacy, even if that require a reduced membership.
    The current Council of Elector Princes must be replaced -some day- by something close to an Eu senate.

  24. Igor, Italy,

    You are not alone in the 'naive' belief that political power needs to be democratic, accountable and understandable - at the EU level, too.

    Foreign policy, defence and Britain's 'macro level' role (with the propects after the next general election probably continuing the worsening trend) seem to be questions where we share the same views.

    Basically, we both seem to agree that the Lisbon Treaty institutes some needed reform to make the union function a little bit better.

    The main difference seems to be my growing pessimism that the cartel of 'Prince Electors' will happily bury democratic reform of the EU for the forseeable future, if they are able to squeeze through the Lisbon Treaty.

    Igor, thank you for your contributions.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.