A Policy document by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.
Written by Carol Fox, Research Officer of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance and endorsed by the National Executive Committee.
Before the end of 2006, the Irish people will be asked to go to the polls to approve the new EU Constitution. This will be a momentous vote. The importance of creating a Constitution for the European Union has been acknowledged by the fact that nearly half the EU countries, representing over half the EU's population, will also be having referendums. This is not the normal stuff of EU Treaties where very few countries allow their people to vote on ratification: it is normally left up to Parliaments for approval. Ireland is one of the few exceptions where, thanks to the Supreme Court Case of Raymond Crotty in the late 1980s, the Irish Government was forced to submit the Single European Act and all subsequent treaties to the people for approval: a nod and wink through the Dail was not enough. The Peace and Neutrality Alliance is pleased that more countries will be having referendums in this instance but we feel that all the EU Member States should be giving - or withholding - approval of the EU Constitution via a vote of all the people. Referendums should be held throughout Europe on the same day.
However, some EU Member States will be attempting -- like our own Government - to downplay the real significance of the EU Constitution. This is not merely a pulling together of previous EU treaties into one tidy, more readable document, as our Government will argue. It contains a number of new elements, particularly in the areas that the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) is most concerned with: common foreign, security and defence policy. It is also far more than a Treaty and the term 'Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe' is designed to obscure what is being proposed: this is a Constitution for a developing EU State, with its own Central Bank, citizenship, currency, laws, judiciary, executive and parliament, President, Foreign Minister, Diplomatic Corps, Charter of Fundamental Rights, military headquarters and evolving army and police force. There is a national anthem, a flag, and a motto. The new EU Constitution will have primacy over the Irish Constitution and all the other constitutions of the EU Member States.
The new departures in the foreign policy and defence areas include:
1) institutional measures to give the EU a stronger voice and role in international affairs: these include a permanent EU President (the rotating six month EU Presidencies between the member states will end) and an EU Foreign Minister and EU Department of Foreign Affairs (European External Action Service);
2) an expansion of the 'Petersberg Tasks' to be carried out by the EU's civilian and military forces, to include combating terrorism, and possible pre-emptive military action against perceived 'threats';
3) a new innovation, Structured Cooperation, which allows mini-military alliances to be established within the structures of the EU to carry out the EU's more 'demanding' missions;
4) Mutual Solidarity and Mutual Defence Clauses which oblige all member states to come to the assistance of any member state subject to armed aggression, terrorist threat or attack, or manmade/natural disaster.
All of these innovations have been developed within a post 9/11 international environment, and the controversies of the Iraq War. They are backed up by a new EU Security Strategy, "A Secure Europe in a Better World", written by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javiar Solana, and endorsed by the EU in December 2003.
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