Facts Regarding the Nice Treaty and EU Enlargement
Sir, Professor Brigid Laffan writes (15 May) that the Nice treaty was
negotiated to permit EU enlargement. How does she reconcile that statement
with the following facts?
Nice replaces unanimity by qualified majority voting on the EU Council
of Ministers in some 30 policy areas. These include the appointment of EU
Commissioners, the funding of EU-wide political parties, international trade
in services, the implementation of agreed foreign policy joint actions and
common positions, and the rules of the EU structural funds. What have these
to do with EU enlargement?
Nice abolishes the right of each member state to have one of its nationals
on the EU Commission in an enlarged EU. Former Irish EU officials Eamonn
Gallagher and John Temple Lang have characterised this provision as ‘a serious
flaw’ in the treaty and as in no way necessary for EU enlargement. They see
it as a dangerous erosion of the legitimacy of the Commission as the guardian
of the common EU interest, and particularly disadvantageous for small states
Nice permits the division of the EU into first-class and second-class
members by permitting eight or more EU members to ‘do their own thing’ and
to use the EU institutions for that purpose, even though the other members
disagree. Examples would be harmonising taxes among themselves or making
the EU Court of Justice the final determinant of their citizens’ human rights.
Eight out of 15, or eight out of 20, or eight out of a possible 27 in
an enlarged EU. This ends the EU as a partnership of legal equals, in which
each state has a veto on fundamental change. At present the other EU states
cannot go ahead and agree special arrangements among themselves without Ireland’s
permission. These ‘enhanced cooperation’ provisions of the Nice treaty would
allow them to do that in future.
It is these provisions which make up the new constitutional matter that
requires a referendum in Ireland if Nice is to be ratified. There is no need
for us to change our constitution to permit EU enlargement, anymore than
we had to hold referendums on previous enlargements.
These provisions for what would effectively become a two-tier three-tier
EU are not necessary for enlargement. They were brought into the treaty negotiations
by France and Germany at the Feira EU Summit after the Intergovernmental
Conference (IGC) to consider the implications of enlargement had been
set up. Their political purpose is to enable the big states, Germany and
France in particular, to establish an inner directorate in an enlarged EU,
which can then confront the rest with continual political and economic faits
accomplis. They provide the legal path towards what M. Jacques Delors called
for in 2000: ‘A Union for the enlarged Europe and a Federation for the avant-garde.’
Nice militarizes the EU in a new way by making the EU directly responsible
for the first time for the 60,000-soldier ‘Rapid Reaction Force’ and the
associated EU Military Committee and EU Military Staff, instead of using
the Western European Union as the agent of the EU in military matters, as
was previously the case. Again, what has this to do with EU enlargement?
The Treaty of Amsterdam says that if the EU enlarges by even one state,
the big states will lose one of the two Commissioners each now has, but will
be compensated by increasing their relative voting weight on the Council
of Ministers or by taking their population size into account in such votes.
That does not require a further EU Treaty. It is why Commission President
Prodi told the Irish Times last June that ‘enlargement is possible without
Nice’, and that the EU can be enlarged by 10 or more applicant countries
on the basis of their individual accession treaties, as happened with previous
Nice both increases the relative voting weight of the big states and introduces
a population criterion for council votes from January 2005, irrespective
of whether EU enlargement has occurred by then, and irrespective of the number
of new member states. The allocation of council votes and Euro-Parliament
seats for the 12 applicant countries is set out in a declaration attached
to the Nice treaty as the common position of the 15 members in their negotiations
with the applicants. This is not legally part of the treaty proper. It was
therefore not rejected by Ireland when we voted no to Nice last year.
There is no reason why the applicant countries cannot join the EU on the
basis of the proposals in this declaration.
The logic of these facts would seem to be that the non-contentious parts
of Nice should be put into another treaty which does not require a constitutional
referendum in Ireland. The contentious parts, such as the ‘enhanced cooperation’
provisions, should be left to the Year 2004 Treaty now being discussed
in the EU convention, when the applicant countries can have a say on them
as full EU members. May I suggest that this is the course the government
should insist on vis-à-vis its EU partners, if it is to do its constitutional
duty in the light of last year‘s Nice referendum result.
Anthony Coughlan, Secretary, The National Platform; published in Irish