Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lisbon Treaty Update

David Fieldsend of Care for Europe who was in Dublin to address an Oireachtas (Irish Government) committee hearing on the Lisbon Treaty also addressed a meeting in Buswell’s hotel in Dublin on Tuesday 11th Nov.
Fieldsend told the meeting that EU Institutions are increasingly seeking to influence national practice in the area of social issues previously felt to be a matter of subsidiarity. Seeming ‘safeguards’ in the Treaties appear to have been all too easily got round by re-classifying the issue to appear under a different heading or article of the Treaties where action is not restricted – or just by putting a new and unexpected interpretation on the Treaty wording.
He instanced a variety of ways in which the EU had managed to expand competence into areas which should have remained within national arena such as the decision to give EU funding to embryonic stem-cell research a decision which was backed by the Irish Government.

According to Fieldsend, while there is as yet no EU legislation which specifically refers to abortion many reports and resolutions have been adopted – and at least one piece of legislation which include the ambiguous expression ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’. Although all official answers from both the European Commission and the Council of the EU consistently deny any European competence to act in the matter of abortion most international organisations which use this expression (certainly including UN agencies, WHO, etc) interpret it as including access to abortion (usually under the title ‘preventing unsafe abortion’). It is also frequently quoted in court cases across the world where family planning NGOs (of which the ‘Center for Reproductive Rights’ is a leader) seek to pressurise southern hemisphere countries to allow unrestricted access to abortion.

Fieldsend also referred to the Maruko judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which extends to same-sex partners the pension rights previously enjoyed only by spouses. The significance of this decision is that the EU is supposed to have no competence, or power, in the area of family law. The further significance is that the Employment Equality Directive, on which this decision was based, explicitly safe-guarded member-state marriage law, and yet the ECJ still came to this judgment. (Irish Independent 14th Nov.)There was the attempt by the European Commission to restrict the right of religious schools in Ireland and elsewhere to employ individuals who will respect their ethos, again in the name of employment equality.
In addition, the Commission has told Germany that its civil partnership model for same-sex couples must be made equal to marriage, also in the name of equality. Will it tell us the same thing?
Other examples can be given but what we are seeing again and again is the EU turning the principle of non-discrimination into an absolute, as though no other social goods exist. Added to this is competence creep on the part of the EU, plus activism by the ECJ, which drive forward this agenda and treat the principle of subsidiarity as though it doesn't exist.

Fieldsend told the meeting that past experience does not give him great comfort that just keeping something out of the Treaty is a cast iron guarantee and he recommended that Ireland ringfence Articles 40-44 of the Constitution which protect fundamental rights, including religious freedom, the right to life and the family based on marriage.
For the full reassurance of religious voters I would respectfully suggest that at least the whole of Articles 40 to 44 of the Constitution should be considered for protection and that such protection should not be merely from the Treaty content itself, but also extend to any laws subsequently enacted under those Treaties and the judgments of the European Court of Justice