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Monday, March 31, 2008
The Lisbon Treaty
Treaty text [745.4KB]
Protocols and declarations [330.1KB]
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Last Updated: 17/03/2008 11:41
Business group backs Lisbon Treaty
Business body Ibec today became the latest group to back the Lisbon Treaty claiming a 'Yes' vote in the upcoming referendum would boost the economy and create jobs.
The organisation, which represents 7,000 employers nationwide, said it would also attract investment and protect the country's business interests.
It comes just days after anti-treaty group Libertas claimed if the document was ratified it would create inequality among EU member states and damage the economy.
"The treaty will ensure that key national interests are protected," said Ibec's Director of EU and International Affairs Brendan Butler. "Our ability to set our own tax policy is guaranteed along with arrangements concerning foreign direct investment.
"This means that Ireland will remain among one of the most attractive places in the world to invest.
"Each previous treaty has created new opportunities for Irish business and has helped create more jobs. This treaty will do the same," he said.
Mr Butler said a yes vote would secure Ireland's place in Europe. In the coming weeks Ibec will launch a major campaign setting out why people should support the treaty.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last week announced the Lisbon referendum would be held in the second week of June.
A day later anti-treaty group Libertas unveiled its 'No' campaign and argued a vote in favour of the treaty was a vote against the founding principles of the EU.
It argues that if ratified Ireland's voting power would be weakened while states like France and Germany would be boosted.
Source: 2008 ireland.com
Last Updated: 06/03/2008 16:54
Government publishes Lisbon Treaty Bill
The Government has published the Bill amending the Constitution to adopt the Lisbon Treaty that will be put to the vote in a referendum.
The Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2008 will enable the State to ratify the Reform Treaty signed in December last. No date has yet been set for the referendum, but Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has indicated it is likely to be held in the last week of May or the first week of June.
Minister for the Environment John Gormley also today established a Referendum Commission to provide information to the public about the treaty.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said today the Dáil will begin to debate the bill "immediately after" the Dáil returns from its Easter recess. Mr Ahern said the Oireachtas could extend the period of debate if necessary but he expected the referendum to be in late May or early June.
The EU treaty will give the bloc a long-term president, a more powerful foreign policy chief and more democratic decision-making, and more say to European and national parliaments. It replaces the constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
Mr Ahern said he had "great faith in the Irish people" backing a "yes" vote despite the treaty being a "difficult document" to understand for some.
"When they see that virtually all of the political parties in the Republic, all of the trade unions, all of the employers, all of the other social partners are very much in favour of it ... I think they will take their lead from that," he said. It is clear from all polling on the Treaty to date, that the more information that people have, the more likely that they will vote Yes Lucinda Creighton, Fine Gael European affairs spokesperson
Ireland will be the only member state to hold a referendum to enable it to ratify the treaty. The other member states have either ratified it or are expected to do so through parliamentary procedures.
Labour Party spokesman on European affairs Joe Costello welcomed the publication of the Bill.
"The next step is to announce the date for the holding of the referendum on the Lisbon Reform Treaty. The sooner the date is set the sooner the preparatory work can begin" he said.
Fine Gael European affairs spokeswoman Lucinda Creighton said a "meaningful and truthful" debate must begin on the content of the treaty and that a date must be set.
"It is clear from all polling on the Treaty to date, that the more information that people have, the more likely that they will vote Yes. Let's ensure that a factual debate begins immediately," she said.
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour are campaigning for a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty. The Green Party has not adopted an official position on it after a vote of its members failed to reach the required majority in order to allow it to do so.
While some senior members of the Greens favour a Yes vote, others, such as former MEP Patricia McKenna, are opposing the State's ratification of the treaty.
Sinn Féin is also opposing it. The party's agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris and Northern Ireland agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew are visiting Roscommon and Leitrim today to meet with local community groups and farmers.
Mr Ferris said the party is "actively engaging with rural communities as part of our campaign against the Lisbon Treaty".
Almost two-thirds undecided on treaty
Originally called the Reform Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty was drawn up to replace the draft European constitution after it was thrown out by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.
The Lisbon Treaty was signed in the Portuguese capital by leaders of the EU's 27 member states in December 2007.
Governments have been asked to ratify the Treaty in 2008 with a view to it coming into force in 2009.
How similar is the new treaty to the draft constitution?
It contains many of the changes the constitution attempted to introduce, for example:
A politician chosen to be president of the European Council for two-and-a-half years, replacing the current system where countries take turns at being president for six months
A new post combining the jobs of the existing foreign affairs supremo, Javier Solana, and the external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, to give the EU more clout on the world stage
A smaller European Commission, with fewer commissioners than there are member states, from 2014
A redistribution of voting weights between the member states, phased in between 2014 and 2017
New powers for the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice, for example in the field of justice and home affairs
Removal of national vetoes in a number of areas
Most European leaders acknowledge that the main substance of the constitution will be preserved.
Reform Treaty in detail
If it contains the same substance, why is the Lisbon Treaty not a constitution?
The constitution attempted to replace all earlier EU treaties and start afresh, whereas the new treaty amends the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht) and the Treaty Establishing the European Community (Rome).
It also drops all reference to the symbols of the EU - the flag, the anthem and the motto - though these will continue to exist.
How long did it take to agree the treaty?
The effort to draft a constitution began in February 2002 and took two-and-a-half years, but that text became obsolete when it was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
Work began in earnest on a replacement treaty during the German EU presidency, in the first half of 2007, and agreement on the main points of the new treaty was reached at a summit in June that year.
Negotiations continued behind the scenes over the following months before a final draft was agreed by the leaders of the 27 member states last October.
Why was the constitution dropped?
France and the Netherlands said they would be unable to adopt the constitutional treaty without significant changes, following the 2005 referendums.
The UK also pressed hard for a modest "amending treaty", which could be ratified by means of a parliamentary vote, like earlier EU treaties.
Could the Lisbon Treaty also end up being rejected?
Yes. If just one of the EU's 27 member states fails to ratify the treaty, it cannot come into force.
Some experts say the UK's opt-out from the Charter of Rights is leakyThis time, all but one of the EU's member states are having the treaty ratified in parliament, which is less likely to cause an upset than holding a referendum.
Ireland is the only country committed to holding a referendum. That will take place in late May or early June 2008.
Although Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001, most political parties in the country have given their backing to the new document and a "No" vote is thought unlikely.
Denmark had been planning to have a referendum on the constitution, but Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that it would not be necessary to have a vote on the treaty because a government investigation had concluded no transfer of sovereignty was involved.
Will the Lisbon Treaty transfer powers from national governments to the EU?
Although the Danish government would say there is no transfer of sovereignty, opinions differ.
The EU exists by virtue of the fact that countries agree to pool sovereignty in certain areas.
The new treaty deepens co-operation in some areas, and extends it to new areas.
Does the Charter of Fundamental Rights feature in the new treaty?
No. There is a reference to it, making it legally binding, but the full text does not appear, even in an annex.
The UK has secured a written guarantee that the charter cannot be used by the European Court to alter British labour law, or other laws that deal with social rights. However, experts are divided on how effective this will be.
Q&A: Charter of Fundamental Rights
Are any countries seeking opt-outs?
Ireland and the UK currently have an opt-out from European policies concerning asylum, visas and immigration. Under the new treaty they will have the right to opt in or out of any policies in the entire field of justice and home affairs.
Poland is also due to sign up to the guarantees on the Charter of Fundamental Rights negotiated by the UK.
Denmark will continue with its existing opt-out from justice and home affairs, but will gain the right under the new treaty to opt for the pick-and-choose system.
Mr Rasmussen has announced that a referendum will be held during the lifetime of the existing parliament on scrapping his country's opt-outs.
Which countries have ratified the Lisbon Treaty so far?
Hungary's parliament was first to endorse the treaty. Malta, Slovenia, Romania and France have also done so.
When will the new treaty kick in?
The treaty should come into force in 2009 but different parts will take effect at different times:
The High Representative on foreign affairs could start work by late 2008, as long as the treaty has been ratified
The new-look European Parliament would not appear until after the European elections in June 2009. In fact, that poll will be seen partly as an endorsement of the new arrangements
The new president of the European Council could also start work at that point
Although a new commission will be chosen in 2009, its size may not be slimmed down until 2014
Some extensions of qualified majority voting (QMV) in the European Council are already in place, such as the appointment of the commission president and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy - but Poland's objections over voting weights mean the redistribution of votes will not come in until after 2014
Some of the higher profile aspects of the treaty could begin to appear by the end of 2008 but it could be 10 years before the process is complete.
Source BBC News