Yes means yes and no means maybe – at least that’ so among Europe’s elite. Which is ironic, because the Continental bien pensants would shudder if they heard this excuse for harassment and manipulative control in another circumstance. But when it is only democracy that’s getting worked over, they don’t mind a bit.
Which brings us to why Americans should care about last weekend’s Irish referendum ratifying the Treaty of Nice. Its supporters, including American newspapers that should have known better, said the treaty’s main aim was to admit 10 former communist countries to the European Union. It was seen as a triumph that recently freed nations were joining what purported to be the democratic, free-market fold.
The truth, however, is very different. What really happened was that the European Union moved past the tipping point beyond which its development into an anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-free market superstate ceases to be an uphill struggle and becomes a downhill gallop.
The EU has admitted new member countries three times since the Irish joined in 1973, but this was the first time Ireland needed a referendum. That’s because Irish law demands that voters give their permission before sovereignty is drained from their national parliament. And the Treaty of Nice – named after the French resort town where it was drafted – involves a massive transfer of power away from the people of Europe and their elected representatives to an unelected authority in Brussels.
You may object – how can a referendum be undemocratic? Here’s how. The Irish already voted, 16 months ago, to reject Nice. But only “yes” votes are regarded as permanent in modern Europe; the people building a multilateral state on the other side of the Atlantic see “no” votes as temporary aberrations in which the plebs got the answer wrong and have to be asked the question again after a period of reeducation.
So, when the Irish said in June 2000 that they would like to continue governing themselves, the tax-financed “yes” camp mounted a campaign to change their minds. The same thing happened 10 years ago when the Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty that actually created the EU. Their shocked masters simply scheduled a second vote and poured sufficient money into the propaganda campaign to secure the answer they wanted.
To make even surer this time round, Dublin actually rigged the vote. On the last day before parliament’s Christmas break in 2001, when many legislators had gone home, it rushed through an amendment to the referendum law, ending its obligation to present voters with both sides of the argument. And the referendum question tied approval for Nice to a vote for non-participation in an EU army, thus herding people who wanted to keep Ireland’s traditional neutrality into the “yes” or, “OK,” corral.
This anti-democratic manipulation should come as no surprise, for the EU is an inherently undemocratic institution. The European Commission, a bureaucracy, is the only body allowed to propose legislation. Think of it for a moment – elected politicians may consider only those policies that bureaucrats put in front of them.
But again, why should the United States care about this? Because the EU is exporting its methods of governance and, with ruthless determination (and dishonesty), is attempting to demolish the concept of national sovereignty. It is already far along that road among the EU’s 15 nations, but it wants similarly to cage American sovereignty within multilateral frameworks and legalisms.
Let’s look at the treaty. It abolishes national veto rights, so member nations can neither opt out of nor prevent Continentwide standardization in 39 key policy areas. It begins harmonizing criminal law, so offenses in each nation will no longer be based on the mores or traditions – or the democratic judgment – of that country’s citizens. Liberal pressure groups are already planning pan-Continental challenges to domestic laws on abortion, divorce and euthanasia.
Worst of all, perhaps, is the treaty’s mechanism to strip member nations of their vote in EU affairs if they breach EU human-rights standards, the nature of which may be judged by a decision in the late 1990s when Britain was ordered, on human-rights grounds, to scrap laws banning sadomasochistic torture. The centralizing EU elite can be expected to disenfranchise nations that slow down the creation of the superstate.
The EU project, which began as an effort to enfold Germany in a constitutional embrace that would prevent it plunging Europe into war again, has turned into an overweening drive to subordinate all member states to a Franco-German command based in Brussels. The suppression of national sovereignty has become the cardinal aim, for that is what makes the EU a power to be reckoned with globally.
Now it is turning that effort on to the United States. It is the EU leaders, France and Germany, that most vociferously oppose America’s right to decide that self-defense and enlightened self-interest make it wise to take military action against Iraq, unilaterally if necessary. It is the EU that is most determined to force the United States back into the economy-hobbling Kyoto climate change treaty. And Pascal Lamy, the EU trade commissioner, has made it clear he intends using the World Trade Organization, which originally buttressed national sovereignty, into a tool of European policy.
Two years ago next month, Jacques Chirac, the French President, speaking at The Hague about Kyoto, said: “I call upon the United States of America…to cast aside their doubts and hesitations…[and join in] building this unprecedented instrument, the first component of an authentic global governance.”
Just as the builders of the European Union are burying the nation-state on their own continent, so they are working toward the imposition of global governance. EU power blooms amid multilateral structures that militate against American power. That is now the EU’s raison d’etre.
Having twice in the past century sent its sons to fight in Europe, with great loss of life, America understandably wants to see the development of a united Europe as benign. But the lens of 20th-century war now prevents America from seeing the European Union properly, and it needs to be put aside. European leaders do not hide their ambition to make the EU a global counterweight and rival to America; we should take them at their word.