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If you have a question about the Lisbon Treaty, we want to help you find the answer. Please have a look at the FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) listed below. You you cannot find the answer to your question, then email us your question and we’ll come back to you as soon as we can.

 

Red Herrings

Will we lose our automatic right to a Commissioner under the current rules?

Without the Lisbon Treaty we will lose our automatic right to a Commissioner.
If Lisbon is rejected the Nice Treaty is the law.
Under Nice the Commission must comprise less than 27 members once membership of the EU reaches that number of member states. The EU enlarged to 27 on January 1 2007.
So under existing law the Commission, which will be appointed in Autumn 2009, will have fewer than 27 members. This will change only if the Lisbon Treaty becomes law.
If Ireland votes against the Lisbon Treaty, the other member states may consider that is it right and proper that Ireland is one of the first countries to not have a Commissioner from 2010-2014.
Keeping an Irish Commissioner is in our own hands.

What about tax?

Is Lisbon one step closer to Brussels setting our tax rates?

No.

The Lisbon Treaty makes no changes in relation to taxation.

The Lisbon Treaty does not mention direct taxation, such as corporation tax.

Matters relating to direct taxation remain the exclusive competence of each Member State. Nothing can be imposed on Ireland in respect of corporate taxation.

The European Council has indicated, in response to concerns raised by the Irish Government that it will give a legal guarantee that nothing in the Lisbon Treaty makes any change of any kind, for any Member State, to the extent or operation of the Unions competences in relation to taxation.

Between the Lisbon Treaty and the New Deal we have belt and braces reassurance that corporate tax policy is for Ireland, not for the EU to decide.

Will the Treaty bring in an unelected, unaccountable President of Europe?

No.

The proposal is simply to replace the rotating system for chairing meetings of the European Council (the regular meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Member States). Currently, Prime Ministers take turns to chair for six months at a time. It is proposed, instead, that they choose someone for a two and half year period to prepare and chair their meetings. That person will have no autonomous decision-making power.

As has been seen with the recent Czech Presidency where the Prime Minister lost a vote of confidence in his national parliament and so had to resign, EU Presidencies, as currently constituted, can be distracted and derailed by national considerations that are unrelated to leading the EU.

A permanent Chairman would be a change for the better! But it is not creating a President of Europe.

Will the Treaty fundamentally change the EU from a group of member-states to an undemocratic superstate?

No.

Consider the facts.

The EU is a union of states and peoples which at all times must act within the laws as laid down by Treaties and the European Court of Justice. The EU derives its powers from its Member States and not the other way around. This is specifically spelled out in the Lisbon Treaty.

The Member States are fully represented in all European institutions and decision making bodies.

The Treaties lay down very specific rules about how the EU does its business and what it can do. The Lisbon Treaty makes clearer than ever before, which decisions are taken at EU level and which are taken at national level.

The EU budget accounts for less than 1% of the combined income of its member states.

The Member State budgets themselves range from 35% to 60% of their domestic national income.

Membership of the EU is based on the free choice of sovereign states and peoples. It is a voluntary entity. Choice, not coercion, is the means of entry.

States are free to leave. The Lisbon Treaty for the first time expressly establishes a procedure to facilitate the orderly withdrawal of a member state that so chooses.

The ties that bind Member States together are the mutual benefits of prosperity and peace.

For smaller states there are enormous benefits in terms of international relations to a system that is based on the rule of law, due process and checks and balances that guarantees a voice for all states.

In terms of their interests and values, EU membership enhances the ability of its Member States to deal with shared cross border challenges.

What’s It All About?

Why we are we voting again?

The Treaty of Lisbon was negotiated by the 27 member states of the European Union and signed by them in December 2007. The Treaty cannot come into force unless it is ratified by all 27 member states.

The Irish referendum ‘No’ in June 2008 means that today, uniquely among the 27, Ireland is unable to ratify the Treaty.

The Irish Government extensively researched the reasons for the ‘No’ vote and presented the core Irish concerns to the other Member States.

People felt that they did not adequately know what the Treaty was about and that they had insufficient information. There were also specific concerns such as the loss of the Commissioner, fear of conscription, the possibility that the Irish system of corporation tax would be undermined and ethical issues.

The Government presented these concerns to the other Governments. It looked for legal guarantees in a number of areas including the retention of a Commissioner for each member state. The Government made a pledge to the 26 other Governments that if a package were forthcoming that dealt with Irish concerns, it would ask the Irish electorate to look again at the issue.

Our EU partners have delivered. A set of reassurances and clarifications to address Irish concerns has been agreed at the European Summit meeting held in Brussels on the 18th and 19th of June.

On this basis, in the light of these legally binding reassurances and clarifications, the Government again is putting the question to the people asking ‘What is your final answer’. The Governments have done their work. Now we the people must decide.

Why another Treaty and why now?

Timely and appropriate reform is the life blood of all successful organisations. The EU is no exception.

The Lisbon Treaty is designed to address contemporary challenges such as the impact of globalisation, the economic crisis, climate change, drug smuggling, trafficking in women and children, energy security, sustainable development, achieving the millennium developments goals, cross-border crime and immigration.

The Treaty restates the Union’s fundamental values of democracy, justice, rule of law, respect for human rights, solidarity, sustainability and tolerance.
Making Europe democratically and organisationally fit for purpose in the 21st century is in Europe’s interest and is entirely consistent with Ireland’s values and interests.

What does the Treaty actually do?

The Treaty has three broad aims:
1. To allow the enlarged EU of 27 to act with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
2. To strengthen the democratic character of the Union.
3. To enhance the role of the EU in the global system. The Lisbon Treaty does this by introducing: A clearer, fairer voting system. A clearer distinction on who does what between the EU and member states. An enhanced system of democratic checks and balances including A stronger say for national parliaments on EU legislative proposals. A greater say for the European Parliament in EU budget and law making. The Council of Ministers acting in public when its votes on EU law. A Citizen’s right of initiative. And on strengthening the EU’s role in the global system the Treaty proposes - A full time chair of the European Council. A stronger representative for the EU on the world stage.

Why should we vote Yes?

If Ireland votes ‘Yes’, the Lisbon Treaty will enter into force. More importantly, Ireland’s EU future is kept in Irish hands. Ireland’s position as a committed and engaged member state is fully affirmed. It is a message to the wider world of certainty and stability by ourselves for ourselves about where we stand.

What if we vote No?

The Lisbon Treaty will not enter into force. Ireland’s European future is in the hands of others. A second consecutive rejection of the available Europe is a message to the wider world that we are uncertain about where we stand.

Adding a new layer of uncertainty at this time of economic crisis will compound and not confront the challenges we face.

Our commitment, not our size, has been the hallmark of our influence inside the EU. A second ‘No’ will put a psychological and political doubt over Ireland’s commitment to Europe. This is not the way to enhance our future negotiating power or to win friends and influence people in the EU and it is not cost-free. Ireland will not get a better deal.

Legally, this is unknown territory. We think there is good reason to be worried that a second ‘No’ vote will seriously undermine Ireland’s place in the EU. It will also add to the international uncertainty about Ireland’s stability as a country.
We know how voting ‘Yes’ will help the country and our economy. Nobody has shown us how voting ‘No’ helps create jobs, or a better future for Ireland.

What’s in the Treaty for Ireland?

The New Deal

After last year’s vote, the Government identified the reasons why people voted No and over the last few months they negotiated a New Deal with legally-binding guarantees on the main issues of concern. When the Irish people vote on the Lisbon Treaty later this year, it will come with the following guarantees which will have the full force of International and EU law once ratified:

• Ireland, and all other Member States, will keep a Commissioner
• Ireland will remain in control of its own tax rates
• Irish neutrality will not be affected: This means no conscription whatsoever and no common defence.
• Ireland retains control of sensitive ethical issues such as abortion .
• Workers’ Rights and public services are valued and protected in Ireland and the EU, in particular through the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

These guarantees were agreed at the European Council on June 19th, and they will have the force of International Law. The States have also agreed to ratify them as a protocol in the near-future, which means they will have full Treaty status.

Jargon

What is the European Parliament?

The representative assembly of the people of Europe. Members are democratically elected every 5 years. Under Lisbon the Parliament gets co-decision making power in almost all areas of EU law, this means more power to directly elected representatives.

What is the Council Of Ministers (The Council)?

The Council Of Ministers/Council is made up of the 27 national Ministers, but this group depends on the issue being discussed (for example, if the Council is discussing agriculture, the 27 national Ministers for Agriculture will assemble). The Council approves EU law, often in co-decision with the Parliament.

What is the European Commission (The Commission)?

The Commission is responsible for proposing laws to the European Council and the Parliament. It implements decisions and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Union. If Lisbon is approved, each Member State will continue to appoint one Commissioner for each term (5 years).

What is the European Council?

The European Council is is made up of the democratically elected Prime Ministers of the 27 Member States, and the President of the Commission. It deals with major issues facing the EU and sets the EU’s strategic direction

Under Lisbon, a new permanent chairperson will coordinate the European Council’s work for a two and a half year term. Lisbon also means the Council’s meetings are held in public and its role is formalised.

What is the European Court of Auditors?

This body audits the accounts of all the EU institutions. There is one member from each Member State.

What is the European Court of Justice?

The European Court of Justice is the ultimate arbiter of EU law. It consists of one member from each Member State and has the ultimate say on questions of EU law and ensures that they are applied equally in all Member States.

What is the European Union (EU)?

The EU is an economic and political union of 27 Member States, and was known as the European Economic Community until 1993. With a population of almost 500 million, the EU generates an estimated 30% share of the World’s gross product.

What is the European Economic Community (EC)?

This was the forerunner of the EU until 1993 when the Treaty of Maastricht was approved by the Member States. The EEC was created in 1957 to bring about economic integration (including a single market) between Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It later expanded to include Ireland in 1973.

What is the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy?

This is the main coordinator of the Common Foreign and Security Policy within the European Union. The position is currently held by Javier Solana and is based in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.

The post was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam and its holder, together with the national Foreign Minister holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, represents the council of Foreign Ministers of the Union. The Clinton administration claimed in May 2000 that Solana was the fulfillment of Henry Kissinger’s desire to have a phone number to talk to Europe (‘Who do I call if I want to call Europe?’- Henry Kissinger).

What is an MEP

An MEP is a member of the European Parliament. Ireland elects 12 MEP's.

What is a Commissioner?

A Commissioner is a member of the European Commission. There are 27 of these, and if Lisbon is passed each State will keep the right to appoint a Commissioner.

What is the President of the Council?

This person acts as a chairperson for the work of the European Council. Currently, Prime Ministers take in turn to chair for six months at a time. It is proposed instead that they choose someone for a two and a half year period to prepare and chair their meetings. That person will have no autonomous decision-making power.

What is the Secretary-General of the European Commission?

This is the most senior civil servant in the European Commission. The current and previous holders of this position are both Irish.

What is Subsidiarity?

This is a principle of EU law, which is that actions should only be taken by the EU in areas where action by individual Member States is not enough to deal with the issue, and that in general decisions should be taken at the most effective level.

What is Shared Competence?

This is where the EU’s responsibilities and scope of authority on certain issues are shared with the Member States, including transport, energy and agriculture.