June 16, 2008

Our right to decide

The Irish have rejected the European Union Lisbon Treaty in a referendum by 53.4% voting 'No' and 46.6% voting 'Yes'. Turnout was 1.6 million.

While this is bad news for the EU project, it is further evidence that the Simultaneous Policy (SP) strategy is both necessary and correct.

The EU treaty has already been ratified by 18 of the other 27 Member States. In every case this has been by national governments, without consultation of citizens through a referendum. You can find a useful table on Wikipedia at:

In the UK the treaty is a hot political topic, particularly whether to hold a referendum or not. Despite promising a referendum on a proposed EU constitution (which was scrapped as referenda in France and the Netherlands opposed it), Prime Minister Gordon Brown is arguing the Lisbon Treaty is a lesser reform and so new rules apply: no referendum.

The rejection of the treaty by Ireland should derail the whole process as all 27 Member States are required to approve it. The EU Commission, the bureaucrats behind the treaty, led by EU President, José Manuel Barroso, suggest there are two options. The Irish could be asked to hold another referendum and vote yes, or the project proceeds with Ireland as a semi-detached member. The Commission argues that one 'No' should not trump the 26 'Yeses', assuming all other governments pass the treaty.

The Commission is, of course, valuing the 'Yeses' of national governments equally to the result of a referendum.

In a globalised world it is important to have supra-national agreements at regional and global level. The EU project has been flawed, however, by its democratic deficit. The unelected Commission has powers far greater than those of the elected Parliament and does dictate to or manipulate Member States. The Commission itself is the subject of much criticism for its handling of EU affairs, not least because it has been unable to get the accounts cleared by the European Court of Auditors for 13 years.

This leads to public distrust of the EU as a whole and the rejection of the constitution and now the Lisbon Treaty when the people have been asked (though in Spain the constitution was approved in a referendum). Governments, on the other hand, approve of the changes to the way the EU is to be run on the basis they will make it more effective and are a step towards a more democratic and accountable organisation. Will Hutton, writing in The Guardian, has argued that the views of the people of Ireland should be rejected on this basis:

"The European Union is a painfully constructed and fragile skein of compromises that allows 27 democratic states on our shared continent to come together and drive forward areas of common interest to further their citizens' well-being. The elite that plots this is a nonexistent phantom invented by populist demagogues. The beleaguered, unloved treaty would have improved Europe's effectiveness and tried to address its much talked about democratic weaknesses."

He concludes: "Maybe pro-Europeans can win Ireland's second referendum and then, in 2010 or 2011, our own. But referendums work best for the demagogue, the dissimulator and scaremonger, as Hitler and Mussolini, lovers of referendums, proved. Increasingly, Ireland and Britain are heading for the European exit and that could portend further break-up of the Union. Pro-Europeans look out."

This situation raises questions for the Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign and Simpol, the growing network of national organisations that promotes it.

There are similarities and differences with the EU treaties.

A significant difference is that SP is limited to addressing global issues. It is not intended to harmonise national legislation as the EU does. There is no meddling with national sovereignty. The vast majority of politics is outside the scope of SP, as I observed in a recent blog.

The content of SP is propposed, discussed, developed and approved by SP Adopters - and anyone can sign up as an Adopter free of charge - not an elite. You can take a look at policies under discussion and the support they gained in the last round of voting at:

The policies will be finalised prior to implementation (see this blog for information on how implementation will be achieved). As the campaign develops, the number of Adopters involved in policy development and voting in all countries will continue to grow and become significant. Yet, it will still be an opt-in process. Accordingly the Simpol Founding Declaration undertakes that national approval by all citizens of voting age will be required. The only way I can see that working in practice is through 'Yes/No' referenda, like that in Ireland on the EU treaty.

SP will not be a 'one size fits all' package as Adopters in each country will have brought their views to the discussion. So hopefully the likelihood of support from other citizens will be high. We are talking about responses to global problems developed by the people, for the people.

But what if it does go wrong and a referendum in a country does not approve implementation? The politicians there who have pledged to implement SP alongside other governemnts when all, or sufficient, governments have made the same pledge can invoke the provisional nature of that pledge. If the final content is unacceptable they do not have to go ahead - indeed they should not go ahead if they do not have the approval of their citizens.

Whan all voting is in, those countries that have approved SP will still, hopefully, be sufficient for implementation to take place. If not, Adopters will have to look again. If so, then those countries who remain outside can seek changes or re-evaluate once they see the policies working in practice.

Having the country with the biggest global impact - the United States of America - involved is going to make a big difference to whether there are sufficient nations. The forthcoming Presidential election is the chance for US citizens to assert their sovereign democratic rights by calling for the candidates to pledge to implement SP alongside other governments. Whether you are a US voter or not, you can send a message using the form at:

Those supporting SP can do so safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day they can oppose its implementation. But also with the hope and expectation that SP will deliver the changes we need to address global problems and the political will to make them reality.

No comments: