31 January 2002 Edition

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Government must implement people's decision on Nice

The keynote speaker at the public meeting of the National Forum on Europe held in Monaghan town on 25 January was Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who called upon the government to implement the people's decision in the Nice Treaty referendum. He said that the government had failed to do so and its conduct, and that of the other member state governments, proved the point made by the anti-Nice campaign that the Treaty was undemocratic. The Monaghan meeting was one of a serie that have been taking place across the state in January.

Ó Caoláin told the Forum:

"Last June the electorate in the 26 Counties rejected the Nice Treaty. When that democratic decision was made the government was under a clear obligation to implement it. The government has not implemented the decision of the people and has not respected their democratically expressed will. It has not requested the other EU states to halt the process of ratification of the Nice Treaty. EU Treaties legally require the approval of all member states and if one member state rejects, then the Treaty falls. Yet the Irish government has made no such request and the other EU states are proceeding with ratification regardless of the decision of the Irish electorate - the only citizens in the EU who have actually voted on the Nice Treaty.

"There is no way the population of Germany or France or Britain would be ignored in this way. If Nice had been rejected by referendum in any of those states then it would be declared dead and they would have to return to the negotiating table to work out a new treaty. Therefore, the conduct of the Irish government, the EU Commission and the governments of the other EU member states proves the point made by those of us who opposed the Nice Treaty - that it is undemocratic and that, if Nice were adopted, the EU would no longer be a partnership of equals. The smaller states would be second-class members of the EU, dominated by the states with the larger populations. It appears that that is already the case where Ireland is concerned.

"In a democracy the elected representatives of the people make laws and decide policies. If the people think they are doing a bad job they can turf them out at the next election. The problem with the way the European Union is run is that there is no such democratic process. Laws are made by the unelected EU Commission and the Council of Ministers from each of the member states. The Nice Treaty actually makes the EU even less democratic."

Ó Caoláin asserted that instead of making the EU institutions more accountable to the citizens in each of the member states the Nice Treaty increases the power of these bodies.

"One of the main concerns of those who voted against Nice is the question of Irish neutrality. The EU now has a military arm - the Rapid Reaction Force, the core of a new EU army - to which the Irish government has already committed troops. Under Nice the EU is tied closer to NATO, the nuclear-armed military alliance. Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy - what's left of them - are fatally undermined. I believe we should withdraw from the Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace."

The Sinn Féin TD urged the government to ensure that the Irish delegation to the new EU Convention is representative:

"An EU Convention made up of representatives from all the member states is being established to consider the next EU Treaty and the constitutional future of the EU. It is due to begin work on 1 March and this State has to nominate two members from the Dáil and two alternates before Friday 1 February. I call on the government to ensure that the No side in the Nice referendum campaign is represented. It would be a mockery of the democratic process if the Irish delegation at the Convention consisted only of representatives of the parties who supported the Nice Treaty and lost the referendum. It would assist the Convention if the Irish delegation was representative of the views of the people as expressed in the referendum and in this Forum on Europe."

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