Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

5 April 2001 Edition

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Reasons to vote No to Nice


This week An Phoblacht starts a series of articles outlining reasons for voting no to the Nice Treaty.

1. No to the Europe of Committees

The Nice Treaty leaves us with more bureaucracy and even more unaccountable institutions, the exact opposite of what its citizens want
The bureaucracy and institutions of the EU are known throughout Europe for both the amount of power and resources they wield as well as their unaccountability. One example of this is that the current EU Commission is in office principally because many of the former commission members were found to have acted improperly in office. Even at this highest of level of officialdom, some were found to have engaged in nepotism, mismanagement and fraud. The entire EU Commission was forced to resign in 1999.

Surely then, any new EU treaty formulated after that debacle would seek to democratise the EU and take some power away from this web of committees, with the spider-like EU Commission at its centre. Well no, actually. The Nice Treaty brings us some new committees and enlarges some of the existing ones.

Up for enlargement is the Economic and Social Committee; it has 222 members, nine of whom are Irish and the Dublin government will still nominate nine members to the new 350-member committee. The members are supposed to be representatives of producers, farmers, carriers, workers, dealers, craft workers, professional occupations, consumers and the general interests.

As someone who falls into the category of consumer and general interest, I want to thank the current nine members for keeping me informed of their work on my behalf so far.

The same principal of expansion is proposed for the Committee of the Regions, which is also set to grow from 22 members to 350. The Court of Auditors, an important body because it monitors how the EU and recipient member states spend their cash, is to allow each state nominate one member.

The EU Court of Auditors highlights another important issue, that of how members are appointed to these EU organisations and what qualifications they need for the posts. The Nice Treaty has not introduced a code of practice for how individual member states nominate members and has not set criteria of competence for members. The O'Flaherty debacle last year highlighted the need for an open and transparent process to these appointments. However the new treaty does not see a need for such openness and transparency.

Interestingly, it is only in the case of the EU Courts of Justice that a clear competence of members is demanded. Why does this not apply to other committees?

Other committees proposed in the EU Treaty include a Political and Security Committee. This group will monitor the ``international situation'' and will exercise ``political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations''. In simple English, this committee will have the day to day control of running EU military missions and peacekeeping duties. Funny there is no mention in this part of the Treaty of how many members this committee will have or how many each member state gets to nominate!

Eurojust is another committee that appears in the Nice Treaty, that's the European Judicial Co-operation Unit. Its job is to facilitate cooperation between the judicial systems of member states. This means to make sure a judgment in one state is recognised in another. It also plays a role in facilitating extradition, establishing minimum rules on tackling ``organised crime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking''.

The Council of Ministers will, if the Nice Treaty is ratified, be empowered to appoint a special committee to assist the EU Commission in implementing the common commercial policy. Again no reference to membership, competence or openness of this group is made in the treaty. More worrying in the treaty is the clause that explains that the Commission will report regularly to this special committee. Surely this relationship should be the other way round?

The Social Protection Committee looks at first glance like a good idea. Its job is to monitor ``the development of social protection policies in the member states''. Unlike the Political and Security Committee, this group will have an advisory role only. That means ``relatively powerless'' in plain English. Each member state gets to appoint two members on this committee.

A General Secretariat is to be formed by the Council of Ministers, to help in the area of ``economic, financial and technical co-operation with third countries''. Other than being told that this secretariat will have a Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, there is little other information given on its work.

So it is business as usual in the EU. There are an increased number of committees and the ones that have real power have little information in the treaty about how they should operate. It is ironic that the only committee mandated to produce an annual report of its operations in the treaty is the EU Court of Auditors. The Court of Auditors' job is to monitor the financial operations of the EU, which involves the work of many of these other unaccountable committees.

The Nice Treaty leaves us with more bureaucracy when the citizens of the EU clearly want less. It leaves us with even more unaccountable institutions when again EU voters clearly want more accountability, more openness and more information about what work these bodies are really doing. The fact that that is too much to ask from the EU means that this is a clear reason for voting No to Nice.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1