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On The Treaty - Fact & Fiction
How A Yes campaigner spun reality

The difference between the arguments of the yes and no side is that the yes side quite often make grand claims about the benefit of voting yes for the Lisbon Treaty. They then repeat these claims over and over again; repetition however will not make these claims true. They take an article of the Treaty and spin its words into something that is often quite far away from the facts. This is why, in general, they are afraid of a real debate: because you can easily find examples in the Treaty where you can PROVE them wrong!

Here I want to give you a recent example of a speech by the Irish Secretary of European Affairs Dick Roche given at the “Joint Committee on European Scrutiny” on 29 April 2008. First read parts of his speech (in which he used the term “revolution” or “revolutionary” about 10 times). Then read the facts – the articles – of the Lisbon Treaty and then please make up your own mind whether the Roche speech is a spin or not.


“while the bulk of the treaty was evolutionary, it was revolutionary in the way it extended democracy in the European Union. I am at a loss to understand how people who profess to have an interest in democracy can suggest the treaty does anything other than make the largest historical step in the history of the European Union in extending the democracy in the Union.“ “(...) the Lisbon Treaty represents the biggest single transfer of powers to all the parliaments of the European Union in the history of the Union. It represents a revolutionary step forward.” (...) “This is a revolutionary step forward in terms of democracy. All national parliaments are being brought into the legislative process at an earlier stage than ever before.” (...) “It cannot be emphasised enough that this is truly revolutionary. It gives the citizens of the member states, whether they are natural or corporate, a much earlier opportunity to have an input into the law-making process, to influence the process and to articulate their concerns.”


Please do read these lines with some of the original text of the Lisbon treaty (feel free to read the whole of it on the Council website):

Protocol (No 2) on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality states:

Article 6
Any national Parliament or any chamber of a national Parliament may, within eight weeks from the date of transmission of a draft legislative act, in the official languages of the Union, send to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission a reasoned opinion stating why it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. (...)

Article 7 (1) paragraph 2
Each national Parliament shall have two votes, shared out on the basis of the national Parliamentary system.

Article 7 (3)
(...) Under the ordinary legislative procedure, where reasoned opinions on the non-compliance of a proposal for a legislative act with the principle of subsidiarity represent at least a simple majority of the votes allocated to the national Parliaments (...) the proposal must be reviewed. After such review, the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal.

Article 8
The Court of Justice of the European Union shall have jurisdiction in actions on grounds of infringement of the principle of subsidiarity by a legislative act (...)


What do we learn from that? FACTS:

  1. Every national parliament has only eight weeks time to send a reasoned opinion to representatives of the EU on why a draft proposal is a breach of subsidiarity.
  2. Each country has two votes. In a country with two chambers each chamber has one. In countries with only one chamber the chamber has two votes. That makes 54 votes altogether (27 countries x 2)
  3. A complaint by one national parliament has no effect on an ordinary legislative procedure of the Commission unless accompanied by 13 other national parliaments, because a simple majority (51%) of parliaments is needed (i.e. 28 votes = 14 countries). e.g. if the national parliaments of Ireland, the UK, France, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Malta, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Latvia complain about a breech of subsidiarity, this has no effect at all. It cannot even cause the Commission to review its draft in the framework of an ordinary legislative procedure.
  4. So it is not just that national parliaments do not only have to react in eight weeks time. If they actually want to achieve something – during this period - they have to convince 13 other national parliaments to do the same.
  5. IF this were achieved in 8 weeks time then what? Quote: “the proposal must be reviewed. After such review, the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal.
    What a revolution of democracy: if the parliaments of 14 member states – which are elected by the citizens and own the highest democratic legitimacy – want to get rid of a draft bill by the Commission – unelected civil servants who intermingle with all sorts of lobby groups – then the bureaucrats “may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal”. [own emphasis]
  6. If the Commission wants to keep the proposal for legislation it still could be stopped by the European Parliament or the European Council (but this is nothing new and applies to nearly all EU legislation). In the end the national parliaments can only go to the European Court of Justice which – in doubt – will always rule in favour of the EU.

    And please make up your own mind whether this is a spin or not.

    You can find his original speech by clicking here.

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