♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Europe at 11/05/2009 04:37:00 PMWith a slight delay due to computer woes, it brings me a great deal of pleasure to announce that the Lisbon Treaty has finally been inked by all 27 member states of the European Union. Hallelujah! The Czech Republic's Jurassic Euroskeptic (and global warming denier, naturally) Vaclav Klaus received enough sweeteners so that all he could do was mutter something about how he's had to sign due to an unfavourable ruling. The road to this momentous occasion has certainly been a rocky one. Lisbon's predecessor, the EU Constitution, was turned down in referenda by both France and the Netherlands in 2005. These events prompted a rethink by the powers-that-be which eventually resulted in the repackaging job called the Lisbon Treaty. The main difference this time around was that almost all EU countries did not subject it to referenda--with the most notable exception of Ireland. After turning it down once, the Irish eventually came to their senses and passed it after a second referendum.
What is important to note is the landslide victory the second Irish referendum obtained on the Lisbon Treaty. My intuition is that the difference the second time around was heavy marketing by pro-Europe (pro-intelligent) forces including virtually all major Irish parties. At the same time, and this is the kicker I believe, they did a better job of explaining it to ordinary folks. I honestly do not see repeating referenda as "undemocratic" as Euroskeptics have it but rather a victory over shallow debate where poisoned mass media phobia over a European superstate and similar nonsense is relentlessly hammered into the minds of those who haven't really investigated what Lisbon entails. For, the Lisbon Treaty is not about surrendering powers to some supranational monster. Instead, it's about streamlining the EU which has now grown to 27 members so that it can be more effective in dealing with internal and external affairs.
I am thus amused by the comments of the Euroskeptic press here in Britain hoping for a delay in the signing of the Lisbon Treaty that would allow the Tories' David Cameron--PM Gordon Brown's assumed successor--to subject it to a UK referendum that'd likely result in a "no" vote given the Murdoch media machine's unabashed hatred of the EU. His Sun tabloid says Britain has joined the "Chumpions League" (har-har) in Labour's betrayal while the somewhat more respectable Telegraph opines that a 20o-year-old experiment in modern Western democracy has ended [!] I refer you to an old article in the New Statesman on Murdoch's self-serving twaddle as he fears Brussels' anti-monopoly powers being deployed against his media empire:
If The Sun took the democratic rights of the British people seriously, then it should be campaigning for the influence of foreign tycoons like Murdoch to be extirpated from British political life. Needless to say, we shouldn’t be expecting this to happen anytime soon.Nuff said, In the meantime, this turn of events has put PM-in-waiting David Cameron and the Conservatives in a difficult position. After all, he wrote in the Sun in 2007 (natch) that "Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: if I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations." Apparently, Cameron is now backtracking on this statement by attempting to change the subject--it's the economy, stupid, not Europe--and making more half-baked promises about stopping further EU inroads into UK sovereignty. Either way, there will be no such referendum. I was also amused by France's Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche having to apologize after saying the Tories had a "very bizarre sense of autism" over Europe and the Lisbon Treaty, calling them "pathetic" and their MEPs "castrated". (Murdoch's Times of London reports on this, naturally.) Not the most diplomatic way of dealing with Euroskeptic double-talk perhaps, but it's a refreshingly honest opinion.
Murdoch and the other proprietors are rational enough. They fear the EU because it has the potential to develop the political confidence and regulatory heft to break up their cosy little empires. Concerned at the terrible prospect of the balance of political power slipping away from him, Murdoch will do whatever he can to maintain the status quo.
Ultimately, it comes down to information bettering disinformation. I ultimately believe that the EU cause would be served better by the former. Unfortunately, there are few outlets at the curent time for patiently explaining what Europe really is about aside from the nonsensical tabloid scaremongering peddled here day in and day out. To give you an example, the BBC's fine programme The Record Europe is only shown during the weekends when people are likely out or asleep. Again, political marketing plays a role: if Europhiles want to get their message across better, they had better put in some marketing muscle and create a simple, easily comprehended message that the person on the street can identify with. It's that simple and that complex.
In the meantime, Europa is wonderful tonight.