Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Revenons-en à nos moutons

In other words, let us return to our muttons. (For some reason I have always attributed that one to Diderot but it seems to come from an anonymous 15th century French farce. Well, you live and learn.)

The muttons in this case are those continuing negotiations over the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty. It is assumed that the Irish Government will be put under pressure at the forthcoming European Council meeting in June to name a date for the nuptials second referendum.

In the meantime, feverish negotiations are going on to ensure that the people of Ireland vote yes this time, as it will be a little difficult to have a third referendum and nobody wants go back to the negotiating table for yet another treaty.

Ireland, as the European Voice explains, wants three Protocols added as well as a Declaration (which will have no legal validity) on workers' rights.

The protocols on security and defence, ethical issues and tax will be Irish-specific and are not expected to include any opt-outs from EU policies. But a declaration on workers' rights has raised a number of questions from other capitals, which are suspicious about state obligations to employees in the middle of a financial crisis. As a result, the declaration is expected to state what guarantees already exist on workers' rights in the EU, according to Irish official sources.

Diplomats in Dublin are currently in negotiations with the Council of Ministers' legal services over the protocols. The protocol on tax will be a short statement that the Lisbon treaty gives no extra competences to the EU on tax matters.

The reference to ethical issues will state that nothing in the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights or in the chapter on justice and home affairs policy will affect the Irish constitution as regards the family. References to security and defence are unlikely to include an opt-out of the European Defence Agency (EDA), but Ireland is expected to give its parliament more powers of scrutiny over EU defence policy.
They can have all the powers of scrutiny they want - it will make no difference to EU policy but that is not the objective. All the Irish government wants now is to fool enough people in that country for long enough to get that dratted yes vote.

Open Europe think this is becoming achievable.

Meanwhile, the Spanish are becoming a little difficult. That is not precisely news but it is always entertaining. According to El Mundo, quoted in the same article in the European Voice, though the Spanish piece is clear enough:

In a separate move, Spain has also asked for a protocol that would guarantee its right to have an increase in its number of MEPs, as provided for by the Lisbon treaty, as soon as the treaty comes into effect. But EU leaders are not expected to discuss this at the June summit since it might appear to prejudge the results of the Irish referendum.
This could open a can of worms if Spain insists on renegotiating the Treaty to get that Protocol. Other countries might think of a few changes as well. Clearly, that cannot be allowed by Czech European Affairs Minister Stefan Füle thinks that some kind of a compromise can be found. I expect so - historic experience tells one that what Spain wants Spain gets in return for unswerving loyalty to the project, which just happens to pump a good deal of money into that country.

Oh and in case anyone is wondering, there is a "temporary" government in the Czech Republic (apart from the real government in Brussels).