I have made it clear that I will not be supporting the treaty. I have tabled an amendment to the wording. I have some concerns about the wording. Although I am opposed to the treaty, this does not mean I should not seek to lessen the damage in terms of the wording.
I examined the wording of other European Union treaties. The wording proposed for this treaty is similar to three previous European treaties, the accession treaty, the Maastricht treaty and the Lisbon treaty. The Maastricht and Lisbon treaties were consolidating measures to amend the accession treaty. The accession treaty dealt with the ceding of some of our sovereignty, the recognition of the European Union Court of Justice and governance arrangements for the European Union. That is putting the matter at its simplest. However, they also represented something beyond that. They were about connecting us to those institutions. The Maastricht and Lisbon treaties were acts of consolidation and had to carry forward the same wording. One passage included in those treaties states:
No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State which are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union or of the Communities, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the European Union or by the Communities or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the Treaties establishing the Communities, from having the force of law in the State.
The language we use says everything about the pecking order in terms of what we have in the Constitution. For example, the questions on the Nice treaty, the Single European Act and the Amsterdam treaty had simpler wording, asking whether we would agree to ratify the changes. However, they did not have the additional wording, including the passage above. Essentially, those treaties were below the accession treaty in the pecking order. The three treaties I have referred to, the accession treaty, the Maastricht treaty and the Lisbon treaty, are the heavyweights. Heavyweight treaties have heavyweight ramifications and therefore it was necessary to have heavyweight wording.
The European Union is a rounded and complex set of institutions. There are democratic and legal components. However, an intergovernmental treaty is a different entity. There is a need for a constitutional referendum in the case of a European Union treaty. However, this is not a European Union treaty, it is an intergovernmental treaty. We are not being asked one question but two questions. The first question should, following the simple wording used in, for example, the Single European Act, have as its answer something like, "We agree to ratify this treaty". However, we are being asked something beyond that. We are being asked to put this treaty on a par with the European Union accession treaty and the subsequent consolidating treaties, yet it has no democratic component to it and the legal competence of the European Court of Justice is clearly within the European legislation. It is a matter of serious concern that this treaty is being placed shoulder to shoulder in the pecking order with the heavyweight European treaties. Article 5 of the Constitution states that Ireland is an "independent, sovereign, democratic state". It has been pointed out to me in the past that the Constitution must be read harmoniously when it comes to inserting additional text. In this case, the Constitution cannot be read harmoniously because what is being inserted amounts to a paradox. If we are a democratic State we should not agree to a wording that cedes competences to an intergovernmental entity. To do so is in itself, apart from any other consideration, anti-democratic. There is a paradox there.
Citizens, in their wisdom, agreed to share sovereignty with the European Union, which is an evolving entity. The objectives of the European project are the promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among member states and the building of a highly competitive social market aimed at full employment and social progress. This intergovernmental treaty prevents that from happening because there is a particular economic philosophy driving it. Jürgen Habermas, a German philosopher, put it well when he said that Europe has embarked on a new kind of integration where intergovernmentalism takes the lead in what he calls an arrangement for exercising a type of "post-democratic, bureaucratic rule". That is precisely the point I am making, that the treaty is anti or post-democratic. The wording we are proposing to insert in the Constitution in this respect is not consistent with our claim to be a democratic State.
There have been claims from many quarters to the effect that we have lost our sovereignty as a consequence of the EU-IMF bailout. That is not accurate. We have lost the ability to fund our services and repay our debts, but we have not loss our sovereignty. It is dangerous to claim otherwise because when people consider that something is gone they do not fight for it. It is important to make that point. There are people throughout Europe making the case in regard to the lack of democracy attaching to what is proposed. For instance, a former German Minister of Justice, Dr. Herta Däubler-Gmelin, has described the treaty as crossing a red line by taking away the competence of national parliaments to determine national budgets. It is interesting that this view is coming from Germany. Under the treaty, the European Commission and Council will gain power over national budgets without the involvement of the European Parliament or national parliaments. This will have the effect of diluting voter influence on economic and social policy in Europe. Dr. Däubler-Gmelin is arguing that this is repugnant to the German constitution.
Another cause for concern is that it is not at all clear whether the European Stability Mechanism can be ended, as Professor Gerry Whyte observed at one of the meetings of the Sub-Committee on the Referendum on the Intergovernmental Treaty. Dr. Däubler-Gmelin is essentially saying the same thing. If this amendment is inserted into the Constitution we cannot, in five years' time when our circumstances will hopefully have improved, have another constitutional amendment seeking to delete it. Ratifying the referendum will cede important governmental competences to an intergovernmental entity. There is nothing written into the treaty to put the brakes on that or reverse it. As such, we are set on a dangerous course.
On the economic aspect, we tend to view national debt in household terms. However, while households have a finite life span, countries do not, which is why the latter roll over debt. I do not want to get into the economic arguments because I have had an opportunity to voice my concerns in that regard both at the sub-committee and on Second Stage. As I have outlined, the wording of the amendment would have the effect of placing the proposed intergovernmental entity on an equal footing, under the Constitution, with the European Union. In addition, it is a one-dimensional proposal from which the whole social and democratic component is absent. That is very dangerous in its own right.