Open Europe Blog

Sticking to the point

Just returned from Ireland where we hosted an extremely fruitful debate on the Lisbon Treaty with an excellent panel of speakers from across the EU. Many of the debates on Lisbon are being hijacked by irrelevant issues, such as Ireland’s membership of the EU, which is not up for debate.

So it was very refreshing to have a solid two hours dedicated to the detail of the Treaty and the ways in which it has been ratified in other countries around Europe.

Click here to read extracts – well worth a read if you would like to hear some new arguments from some new faces, such as Dr Jochen Bittner, Europe correspondent at German newspaper Die Zeit; Gisela Stuart, British Labour MP and member of the Convention on the Future of Europe which drew up the Treaty; Erik Lakomaa, a political strategist from Sweden; and Roland Vaubel, Professor in Economics at Mannheim University. And more.

In stark contrast, it struck us while over in Dublin that unfortunately, some of the more desperate ‘yes’ campaigners have now degenerated into anti-foreigner rants, short of detailed arguments for the Treaty itself.

First it was Professor Brigid Laffan, Chairwoman of ‘Ireland for Europe’, shouting about “the British” on Vincent Browne’s TV3 debate on Tuesday. On the programme, Open Europe’s Lorraine Mullally was asked why she believes the Treaty should be rejected, and responded saying it was a matter of trust and democracy. Trust, because the Irish government had repeatedly promised not to make Irish people vote again, and yet is doing so regardless. Democracy, because the Treaty abolishes the national veto in 60 areas of policy, and because Ireland stands to lose more than 40% of its power to block legislation it disagrees with. Under Lisbon, more decisions than ever before will be taken at European level as opposed to the national level, which means that citizens will have less say and less control.

Instead of replying to that point, and making a sensible counter-argument, Professor Laffan launched a desperate attack on Open Europe, including the bizarre argument that our input should be ignored because there are no women on our Advisory Council. Actually there are two, but hey ho.

Worse, we returned to the office today to see an email accusing us of being “paddy-hating”.

Accusations of racism are a very low blow. Normally we’d dismiss this kind of thing but we were surprised to discover this pretty shocking email came from Dr John O’Brennan, a lecturer, no less, in European Politics and Society in the Sociology department at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, and director of the Center for the Study of Wider Europe. Surely he should know better? His message is not the kind of thing you would normally expect from an academic.

As a scholar concerned about the future of Europe, he should surely be welcoming debate about the future of the EU from people around Europe. In any case, as has been well documented, Lorraine herself is “paddy”, so it would be a pretty weird case of self-hatred if true.

All that petty nonsense aside, isn’t there an inherent contradiction in the arguments of those who are championing EU integration, and calling for more through the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and who are also so quick to dismiss the arguments of people from other EU countries? (Very ironic, too, that they – John O’Brennan – should do that while simultaneously accusing others of being racist).

These people are claiming the moral highground but their offensive and wild accusations are testament to an increasingly desperate campaign lacking in real arguments for the Treaty itself. Very sad.

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