Argument: The Lisbon Treaty is too confusing and unclear

Issue Report: EU constitution reform treaty (Lisbon Treaty)


“Sunday Times: Lisbon treaty: yes, no or eh?”. Kathy Foley. 13 Jan. 2008 – Some hours later, I made it to page 25. I was hungry, tired, dispirited and suffering a thumping headache. You tend to get migraines when you read sentences like “The use of Union competences is governed by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality” over and over again, without ever coming to understand what they mean.

And so it went on. Evening became night and late night melted into early morning. Still I read and the more I read, the more confused I got. Even though I have a postgraduate degree in international relations, I still couldn’t make head or tail of most of it. The treaty is so vast, unwieldy and turgid that only the truly dedicated will ever to get to grips with it. If I had a few weeks to spare, I might be able to unravel its complexities and make an informed decision, but I can’t put my life on hold while I parse sub-clauses on proportionality.

An Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll last October found 25 per cent of Irish people would vote Yes to the Lisbon treaty, 13 per cent would vote No and 62 per cent didn’t know or had no opinion. I’m expecting that 62% won’t change much even when the electorate finally tries to figure out what this treaty is all about.

So I find myself in the unusual position of pleading with the government to make a U-turn. Ask the Referendum Commission to send out a neutral and clearly written booklet so we can make a fair and balanced decision on what is a critical vote for Ireland’s future within the European Union?

Failing that, maybe the powers that be could give me a shout for a spot of jury duty. I just want to be a good citizen.

Vincent Browne. “Gobbledegook and the case against Lisbon Treaty”. Irish Times. 5 Mar, 2008 – THE CASE for a conscientious citizen voting No in the coming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is unanswerable. This case has nothing to do with battle groups or neutrality or dilution of Ireland’s clout in Europe, or even tax policy. It has to do, however, with a fundamental issue, one for which the Euro elite have contempt.

It is simply this: the Lisbon Treaty is entirely incomprehensible. It is incomprehensible not just to ordinary citizens but even to conscientious citizens – because the treaty is gobbledegook on its own, and is intelligible only by going through it and all the other EU treaties at the same time.

For the Lisbon Treaty is framed as a series of amendments to previous treaties, or to what is known as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

This treaty is a compendium of previous treaties unavailable here. So we are being asked to endorse amendments to a compendium of previous treaties, without having this compendium available to us, and therefore being unable to understand what it is we are being asked to endorse. And even if we did have this Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to inspect, we would still need to go through, line by line from one document to the other, to make sense of what this Lisbon Treaty is about.

I would wager there is not a single Minister, junior or senior, not a single TD or not even a Senator, who understands this.

The sheer arrogance of the Government and the legion of Euro fans in presenting us with a document neither they nor us understand but insisting we have to endorse it under pain of undefined retribution is hardly surprising. For arrogance and contempt for “ordinary” citizens is a reflexive response of the Euro elite. We should trust them to know what is good for us and not bother our little heads with trying to find out for ourselves what it is we are being asked to approve.

Jean-Claude Juncker, 23 June 2007 – The constitutional treaty was an easily understandable treaty. This is a simplified treaty which is very complicated.

Graham Watson, MEP and leader of the ALDE group, 27 June 2007 – The real casualty was idealism: losing the symbols of our Union and replacing the relative simplicity of the Constitutional Treaty with bureaucratic opaqueness is a pity. As a result, your new Amending Treaty reads like the instructions for building a Japanese pagoda translated into English by the Chinese middle-man.

Karel de Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister. – The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable. The constitution aimed to be clear, whereas the treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.[1]