23 April 2009 Edition
Sinn Féin candidates tell Brussels: 'We need a new treaty for a new time'
SINN FÉIN European elections North-West candidate Pádraig Mac Lochlainn was the key speaker at a Sinn Féin and GUE/NGL-organised conference in Brussels on the Lisbon Treaty. Sinn Féin East candidate Tomás Sharkey also participated as the concluding speaker.
The conference was headlined ‘The Lisbon Treaty - The real reasons the people say No’ and Mac Lochlainn left the packed audience in the European Parliament in no doubt about the depth of opposition in Ireland to Lisbon, not because of any ignorance about the contents and spirit of the treaty but because of very real concerns about democracy, militarisation and public services.
The conference was opened by French MEP and GUE/NGL President Francis Wurtz who called for Europe to focus on “the three Ss”: social, sovereignty and solidarity.
Mac Lochlainn was the Irish speaker in the first session on ‘Ditching Democracy’, where Francis Wurtz and Dutch Socialist Party MEP Erik Meijer spoke about how, despite their countries voting against the original EU Constitution in 2005, their parliaments have now ratified the Lisbon Treaty without a public vote.
Mac Lochlainn hit out too at the blatant scaremongering campaign being run by the Irish Government which was preying on the worst fears of the people during the recession. The Donegal man told the conference about this tactic:
“In his Budget speech last week, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan shamefully tried to deflect his own government’s responsibility for the recession by blaming the people’s rejection of Lisbon for the collapse in Ireland’s public finances and the state’s soaring unemployment.
“Lisbon has nothing to do with Ireland’s recession. The truth is that the culture of vested interests and big business lobbyists in the corridors of Brussels are what created the EU Constitution and its reincarnation, the Lisbon Treaty.
“And, just like in Ireland, it is these very same golden circles that have caused and underpin the current recession in other parts of Europe. It is the interests of these lobbyists that insured a privatisation, centralising of powers and decision-making and an anti-workers’ rights agenda was at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty.”
The conference then moved on to discuss the question of ‘EU Superstate or Accountability and Democracy?’
Swedish former MEP Jonas Sjostedt led the debate, arguing for a shift away from the centralising logic of Lisbon towards an EU decision-making process with a stronger emphasis on the rights of member states to take their own decisions as much as possible.
This session was chaired by Tobias Pflüger, a German MEP and renowned peace activist who spoke of the link between Lisbon and the militarisation of Europe through the tightening of links with NATO.
“The Lisbon Treaty is a military treaty and the people in Ireland voted with their ‘No’ also for us, the people, all over the EU, who are not allowed to vote,” stated the Die Linke MEP.
Participants who had gathered from across Europe to attend now had their chance to speak. These participants included Sinn Féin activists from across the 26 Counties keen to learn of other parties’ experiences in debating Lisbon and its predecessor the EU Constitution as well as Roger Cole of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA). Speaker after speaker from all corners of Europe, including Sweden, Finland, Cataluña, France, Denmark and Belgium, all spoke of their delight at the result of the first Irish referendum and told of their campaigns to have their voice heard through a referendum.
Each in turn emphasised how the huge majorities that passed the treaty in their national parliaments were unreflective of the mood among the citizens of their countries and how fearful the establishment parties in their homelands were of allowing referendums on Lisbon.
The third session of the programme was chaired by Swedish Left Party MEP Eva-Britt Svensson. Here the theme was ‘Economic Crisis: The Failure of Lisbon’.
Expert trade union speaker Fernando Mauricio of the CGTP-IN in Portugal spoke about how Lisbon did nothing to protect workers across Europe in this time of economic turmoil and how in fact it would continue and exacerbate the problems in the current economic policies of the EU. This session also heard French economist Alain Obadia’s powerful critique of why Lisbon is now irrelevant in the new economic circumstances.
Finally, it fell to Louth Councillor and Sinn Féin EU candidate to wrap up the programme with some concluding remarks.
Tómas Sharkey reiterated his view that people across Europe need to know about the complexities of how Ireland voted and that progressive voices across Europe should not allow the notion that the Irish people voted ‘No’ out of ignorance to go uncontested in their countries and media. He also summed up the mood of the conference by looking forward to a further strengthening of co-operation with progressive anti-Lisbon forces as the EU elections and second referendum approach, echoing Pádraig Mac Lochalinn’s earlier assertion that:
“The people of Ireland and Europe cannot afford the Lisbon Treaty. We need a new treaty for a new time.”
This message from Sinn Féin was heard loud and clear in Brussels last week and was warmly welcomed by the EU-wide audience there.
Alain Obadia (Economist) Fernando Mauricio of the CGTP-IN trade union, Eva-Britt Svensson MEP listen as Tomás Sharkey sums up the meeting before the assembled audience