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 Treaty Debate in Maynooth

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PostSubject: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:52 pm

Here I am, way past my bedtime, commenting on the little debate on the Lisbon treaty we had here at NUI Maynooth. Kudos please everyone, and plenty of it.

Debaters were Alan Dukes, or Albert Reynolds as he's being introduced nowadays (the opening speaker was terribly nervous), Aonghus Ó Snodaigh, John O'Brennan (lecturer of politics and the like here at Maynooth and pro-treaty) and Naoise Nunn of Libertas.

I went in cautiously anti-Lisbon I came out cautiously pro-Lisbon. Dukes did well in my opinion, summing up the changes as neccessary reform which will give the EU greater coherence. He seems to think there's a European citizenry though, which didn't sound good.

Nunn was next. Key word here was illegitimate; as an innovative project the EU can't afford to take chances and undermine democracy, which is what the president, fewer commissioners vetos will do. He reckoned there is no need for reform. Unfortunately, for a pro-EU man he seemed to take a lot of shots at the Eu itself, as the treaty was drawn up by unnaccountable (if not faceless) bureaucrats. This undermines his assertion that the EU is grand as it is.

John O'Brennan threw us all and started going on about the EU in a wider geo-political sphere. He argued that the world was a big bad place and that Europe was woefully unprepared to confront it in a unified manner. Big nasty US was mentioned, as some sort of Cronus figure drunk on its own power devouring all before it. Russia was even worse. The Balkans were mentioned as a security threat. He started out complaining about the negativity surrounding a lot of the campaigning, on both sides, and came up with the most apocalyptic scenario of all.

Aonghus Ó Snodaigh started out with a nice piece of Irish. He then reassured us that this was not a vote on the EU, that if we vote no we won't be kicked out as some people seem to be hinting. This began to sound like a positive scenario as he launched an attack on the EU itself and how its all gone wrong on so many levels, all to be augmented by the treaty.

So there you go, the main points. It struck me as a balance between democracy and efficiency and the question was has this treaty gone too far towards efficiency? I'm inclined to think not now. But I'm real gullible that way.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:17 am

Thanks for that 905, you have saved me the trouble of leaving my fireside on a dark night.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 2:08 am

Thanks, 905!

I continue my slight amazement that Libertas have chosen to keep the Commissioner argument as a main plank. They seem to be completely ignoring the fact that the reduction in Commissioners is something that definitely happens, Lisbon or no Lisbon.

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So there you go, the main points. It struck me as a balance between
democracy and efficiency and the question was has this treaty gone too
far towards efficiency? I'm inclined to think not now. But I'm real
gullible that way.

Well....obviously I'm going to say I don't think that's gullible of you! Still, that's also my reading - a reasonable balance of democracy and efficiency. In the long run I think the extension of the Parliament's competency - and thus the increase in democracy - will be the definitive change.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:40 am

Seems to me that there was only one speaker on the yes side...

I've heard Alan Dukes on a number of occasions - a couple of times in Dublin Castle and once in Tralee I think. I find him an intelligent and well informed man but Lord, his arrogance is off-putting and undermines the strength of his arguments - which are good, as it happens.

In Tralee he was up against a pretty considerable Sinn Féin contingent and Martin Ferris was the other speaker. SF have an ability to get at (rightly or wrongly) the issues that affect the common man - like fishing and farming. Dukes found it hard to operate or respond on that practical level. It's not good for the Yes side that they appear to operate on the theoretical level while the only opposition party operates on a very, very practical level.

Even if one doubts whether the points SF make have anything to do with the EU, there's no purpose to be served by not dealing with them - or by simply telling people that the issues are a figment of SF's imagination.

If you're interested in this, Friday afternoon's conference in Blackhall Place looks terrific. If you can mitch for the afternoon (doesn;t everyone on a Friday?) it would be a good use of your time.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:40 am

ibis wrote:
Thanks, 905!

I continue my slight amazement that Libertas have chosen to keep the Commissioner argument as a main plank. They seem to be completely ignoring the fact that the reduction in Commissioners is something that definitely happens, Lisbon or no Lisbon.
They don't ignore the fact, they challenge its basis. Both Nunn and Ó Snodaigh were of the opinion that the commission was fine as it was, that we Irish managed with loads of cabinet members and we're only four million. Shouldn't a commission of twenty seven manage for the 400 million odd souls in the EU?

They don't explain why twenty seven governments would want to willingly weaken their position inh the commission. I don't know what basis there is for reformiong the commission but enough people seem to take it seriously.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:50 am

Kate P,
John O'Brennan was very much pro-treaty; a lot more aggressive than Dukes. The EU needed to able to confront the wider world in a coherent and united maner and that was just what the president and vice-president were for.

As to the issue of theoretical versus practical issues, well I came for a debate on the treaty, not the EU which was what Ó Snodaigh wanted. I'm being a little unfair on him, he was the last speaker and I was getting tires by that time, but he had much more to say about the failings of the EU than the treaty itself. It wasn't clear how any of his issues related to the treaty. H even brought up Shannon and the US military, which I was sure had nothing to do with Europe at all.

They were all good in fairness, but Dukes sounded the best to me, possibly because he was the only positive one. Nunn discussed the illegitimacy and lack of democracy, O'Brennan discussed the impending collapse of civilisation as we know it, and Ó Snodaigh discussed the various ways the EU messes with our lives. Dukes was all efficiency, clarity, coherence and consensus, though he got a bit negative when criticising his opponents' arguments.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:18 pm

So O'Brennan thinks we need the EU to shield us in the big, bad world?

Dukes is impressive but he doesn't really brook opposition, does he?
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:26 pm

No, he got a bit ratty. But then, he was mistaken for Albert Reynolds. Look at it from his point of view, these Libertas lads are spreading misinformation.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 4:59 pm

So, the opposite of democracy is efficiency??

So the reduction in commissioners is happening with or without lisbon, that's interesting. I've heard the yes-side address that point, but never say it was going to happen anyway. I knew it had been planned for a long time, so what is the treaty changing in regard to the commission?

I don't see the difference in efficiency between 18 and 27 people; I know they're not supposed to represent the countries but it would be good if there was one each.


i was just about to fix that don't edit my posts for typo


Last edited by lostexpectation on Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:27 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Woeful spelling - it was a long time coming.)
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:15 pm

A balance must always be struck between efficiency and democracy. At one end of the dichotomy there's the absolute monarch, who is very efficient at making decisions ('cos there's no dissent) but very undemocratic. At the other end would be a parliament where every citizen would have a say, like having a referendum on everything the government does. Very democratic but they'd get nothing done.

It has been decided (by whom I don't know) that the commission is too unwieldy and that some commissioners need to go. I can't see the problem with twenty-eight individuals myself, but it is accepted wisdom within the EU. This change will happen regerdless of whether the treaty is passed but it was added to the treaty so that parliaments could discuss it. They did and no one had a problem with it.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:16 pm

905 wrote:
ibis wrote:
Thanks, 905!

I continue my slight amazement that Libertas have chosen to keep the Commissioner argument as a main plank. They seem to be completely ignoring the fact that the reduction in Commissioners is something that definitely happens, Lisbon or no Lisbon.
They don't ignore the fact, they challenge its basis. Both Nunn and Ó Snodaigh were of the opinion that the commission was fine as it was, that we Irish managed with loads of cabinet members and we're only four million. Shouldn't a commission of twenty seven manage for the 400 million odd souls in the EU?

Hmm. No, the problem I have with it is that it's not relevant to the Treaty. The reduction in the Commission will happen next year if Lisbon fails to be ratified.

905 wrote:
They don't explain why twenty seven governments would want to willingly weaken their position inh the commission. I don't know what basis there is for reformiong the commission but enough people seem to take it seriously.

Well, currently the "Romanian Commissioner" is Commissioner for Multilingualism, which is rather sad, if you consider that McCreevy is Commissioner for the Internal Market. Essentially, there's not enough "ministries" (Directorates-General) to give 27 people meaningful management roles. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:19 pm

905 wrote:
A balance must always be struck between efficiency and democracy. At one end of the dichotomy there's the absolute monarch, who is very efficient at making decisions ('cos there's no dissent) but very undemocratic. At the other end would be a parliament where every citizen would have a say, like having a referendum on everything the government does. Very democratic but they'd get nothing done.

The funny thing is that democracies are more efficient than monarchies. The problem with a monarch making a decision without consultation is that the risk of nobody liking that decision is extremely high, as is the likelihood of that decision being extremely ill-informed. The ability to quickly make lots of bad decisions that everyone then resists is not 'efficiency'.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:34 pm

Touché, but is the four million strong parliament more likely to work better then the 166 one?
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:49 pm

905 wrote:
Touché, but is the four million strong parliament more likely to work better then the 166 one?

Switzerland seems to manage - they have a lot more referendums than we do. I think the balance we have is probably good - maybe a few more referendums would improve things, though.

I take your point, though. The problem with the 4 million strong parliament is that while it's widely consultative, it may not be at all well-informed.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 6:51 pm

but maybe if we asked about a few more things people would inform themselves. eh eh?
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 6:57 pm

Ah, and if they don't inform themselves do they lose their vote for being grossly incompetant? We already deny the vote to under-eighteens.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:14 pm

this idea that the all about a balance between demoracy and efficieny it could be a debate between more demoracy and less democracy


Last edited by lostexpectation on Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:20 pm

Do you mean "This idea that it's all about a balance between democracy and efficiency..."?

I can't see why anyone would want less democracy for its own sake. Equally we could say this is about a balance between more efficiency and less efficiency. Who could be against more efficiency?
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:04 pm

905 wrote:
Do you mean "This idea that it's all about a balance between democracy and efficiency..."?

I can't see why anyone would want less democracy for its own sake. Equally we could say this is about a balance between more efficiency and less efficiency. Who could be against more efficiency?

because it could mean less democracy or the efficieny reason could be an excuse to be less democratic
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:06 am

Why would they want to be less democratic? Why would every government in the EU want that? Why would the EU itself deliberately want less democracy?
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:20 am

905 wrote:
Why would they want to be less democratic? Why would every government in the EU want that? Why would the EU itself deliberately want less democracy?

Sorry to butt in here, but one answer would be that governments like the kind of democracy that gets them elected, but doesn't like the kind of democracy that would tell them what to do once they are in government. That is their problem as well as ours.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:42 am

This makes governments out to be sinister, self-serving villains; methinks you've been reading too much youngdan. And it doesn't explain why every government in Europe wants to cut their own influence in the EU.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:51 pm

905 - your avatar reminds me of J Alfred Prufrock

Quote :
And I have known the eyes already, known them all-
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I being
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?


Re your point
Quote :
Why would they want to be less democratic? Why would every government in the EU want that? Why would the EU itself deliberately want less democracy?

It could be argued that democracy is awkward and gets in the way of progress. But in order to argue that, it would be necessary to look in more detail at the kind of democracy that exists in the EU and what passes for democracy.

For instance, I find the Citizens Initiative a gross insult to the people of Europe because it is patently a gimmick designed to present the appearance of dealing with the democratic deficit that is acknowledged even among Europhiles.

The Lisbon Treaty is really a wasted opportunity to deal with the issues that are at the heart of what makes the EU distant from people - shifting the deckchairs on the Commission is (ineffective and counterproductive) windowdressing.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:09 pm

The glass is always half empty with you Kate P. I prefer to look upon my beloved Fuhrer as an expression of the vitality of life. Would Prufrock prefer not to wriggle?

As for progress, it could be equated with my efficiency and clarity. I haven't a clue about the Citizen's initiative but the commission was never about democracy for the people (directly anyway) but democracy for the governments.

If you think the commission itself is the problem, fine. I would have thought the vast, invisible bureaucracy was more of a problem, though less culpable because it is invisible. I regard the comission as more of a bogeyman, or rather a scapegoat.

I don't know if anyone's seriously proposing radical reform of the commission. From what I gathered the other night, both Libertas and SF were happy with it in its present structure.
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PostSubject: Re: Treaty Debate in Maynooth   Thu Apr 17, 2008 4:32 pm

Kate P wrote:
905 - your avatar reminds me of J Alfred Prufrock

Re your point
Quote :
Why would they want to be less democratic? Why would every government in the EU want that? Why would the EU itself deliberately want less democracy?

It could be argued that democracy is awkward and gets in the way of progress. But in order to argue that, it would be necessary to look in more detail at the kind of democracy that exists in the EU and what passes for democracy.

For instance, I find the Citizens Initiative a gross insult to the people of Europe because it is patently a gimmick designed to present the appearance of dealing with the democratic deficit that is acknowledged even among Europhiles.

The Lisbon Treaty is really a wasted opportunity to deal with the issues that are at the heart of what makes the EU distant from people - shifting the deckchairs on the Commission is (ineffective and counterproductive) windowdressing.

Unsurprisingly, I don't agree at all. I think the extension of the EP voting on Commission proposals is a huge move towards democracy. I don't see why people dismiss the Citizen's Initiative as window-dressing, either - other EU countries have a much longer and effective history of public petitions, so I suspect they would be less inclined to take this lightly.
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