What are the most common criticisms of the Treaty of Lisbon?
June 13, 2008 10:01 AM   Subscribe

What are the most common points of criticism of the Treaty of Lisbon, and how do they relate to the failed European Constitution?

My Google-fu is failing me, and moreover I'm also interested in viewpoints from nations whose languages I can't read: between Irish/British and Dutch/Belgian sources you only get so much of the story.

I understand that a common criticism is that the treaty would enhance the powers of unelected officials. What positions are we talking about, here? And would the treaty really bestow more power upon them? I thought part of the treaty's idea was to improve the role of the European Parliament through codecision with the Council, thus making it more democratic. What gives?

Also: after France and the Netherlands held failed referendums on the Constitution, both decided not to hold a referendum on the treaty. Were there any political reasons for this decision, besides fear of another debacle? I know people got mad, but were there any substantial protest movements, especially in France?

Lastly: have the most common criticisms been allayed somewhat by the revision of the Constitution and its repackaging as the Treaty, or do the same criticisms still stand?

I'm sorry if this is a broad question, please let me know if I can be clearer on any points. Thanks in advance for any insight you may have to offer.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
well, as of today Eire says no, again, but knowing the Irish Government they'll just re-run the referendum (after they offer Sinn Fein something nice, natch!)

The Sinn Fein arguments are here, sigh...

A bit like the Democratic Unionist Party who "di'n't get nufink" for supporting Gordon Brown on the 42 days vote, no siree.... (Do I sound cynical?)
posted by Wilder at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2008

Sorry, GNFI, you deserve more than my Friday evening rant. But I'm a committed EuroUnion -o- phile and my feeling from talking to people in Dublin and London is simply that the "no" camp I have spoken to don't actually know the detail of the treaty.

There is an amalgam of discomfort behind the rejection in Ireland. Decisions are simply taken too far from where it matters is the feeling. We have not yet left "Parish-pump" politics behind I fear.
posted by Wilder at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2008

I think the most common points of criticism of the Treaty are the same as those of the Constitution - it comes down to the fact that national populations are feeling the loss of their own well-organized, well-understood national polities into a European system that even politicians have trouble understanding.

It's relatively hard to explain things like qualified majority voting or the relationship between the European Council and the European Commission (especially when the EU itself used to be the EC!). The Treaty itself may be a great idea, but unless you can convince people it's good for them - something which, with a document of that magnitude, would take years and years of education - why would we expect it to be embraced?

Keep in mind also that here in the US, we've had nearly 250 years with the same short(-ish) document, with amendments as times changed - but only 20-odd amendments, and pretty much everyone knows what they pertain to (though their exact numbering, order, etc, is often forgotten). There's memorable language in there too - "right to bear arms", "cruel and unusual punishment", that kind of thing. It's a national icon, like baseball or jazz music.

The Treaty of Lisbon, by virtue of there being lots of treaties before it, had - and will have - no chance to achieve this status before it's ratified, which seems to be what European Union officials expected - a quick scrum through the 27 parliaments and explanations later. I mean, NAFTA came into force nearly 15 years ago, for example, but if you asked me to tell you what that meant for me aside from cheaper avocados, I couldn't tell you; many, many people in all three countries are unhappy with it.

Think about the Maastricht or Schengen Treaties - probably the treaties that people see the consequences of the most in their daily lives: these led to the Euro and to not being ID-checked when going from France to Germany, things like that. The Treaty of Lisbon has nothing like that - it's not romantic/sexy/important enough in people's everyday lives to stimulate national dialogue, which leads to accusations that it's inherently undemocratic through its obtundity and length.
posted by mdonley at 12:02 PM on June 13, 2008

(I mean, we even have joke-y T-shirts about our constitution.)
posted by mdonley at 12:05 PM on June 13, 2008

I'm European (Portuguese), educated, I watch the news, and I have no idea what the Treaty of Lisbon states (I'm typing from Lisbon, by the way.) I mean, I have a general idea, but certainly not enough to actually go out and vote "yes" or "no".

So, The Treaty of Lisbon has nothing like that - it's not romantic/sexy/important enough in people's everyday lives to stimulate national dialogue maybe right, but I can tell you the first people to believe this are the media (and those in power..?)

What I do know is that referenda in European countries tend to be used as political weapons - say, the Portuguese want to show their discontent about their government, they vote "no". Or "yes", I suppose, if that's what said government opposes. Yay for democracy...
posted by neblina_matinal at 2:56 PM on June 13, 2008

Thanks, guys.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2008

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