My thoughts on why I am not impressed with this Fiscal Compact Treaty, but why I will vote for it and urge others to vote Yes too.
A few nights ago I was on the cusp of penning a piece as to how it was possible to be a committed pro European and still urge a “No” vote at the forthcoming Fiscal Compact Referendum.
My reasoning broadly ran as follows.
- While the Fiscal Compact does contain some important measures that would have addressed the fiscal problems that others, not Ireland, had experienced in the run up to the crisis – it effectively does nothing about the core issue facing the EU and the Euro: the dysfunctional European banking system.
- The EU Council and Commission have wasted over two years taking pointless half measures that tinker about with the symptoms of the problem while studiously ignoring the core problem: the banking crisis.
- This fiscal compact is just the latest in a series of well intentioned, but minimalist attempts to assure the markets that it ready to address the crisis. Like the others it will fail.
- What the EU needs now is a short sharp shock to jolt it into effective and decisive action. By decisive action I mean tackling the banking and credit crisis head on and bolstering the role of the European Central Bank to become the lender of last resort.
- Ireland can not only deliver that shock by rejecting the Fiscal Treaty as inadequate and lacking substance, but it can take the lead – particularly among the smaller, peripheral nations – in demanding that the Commission, particularly President Barroso stop acting as the servants of the French & German governments and get the EU back to being a Union of countries that work together, in partnership and in solidarity for our mutual benefit.
That was my broad theory.
It is not heresy or anti European to say that the Fiscal Compact Treaty does not address the biggest problem facing the economies in both the EU and the Euro.
The point is not that the Fiscal Compact goes too far – it is that it is too one sided. It addresses a secondary problem – not the primary one. It almost completely omits the measures required, specifically on the ECB, to tackle the real problems facing us all.
As I was writing the piece I realised that while I still fully believe in points 1 – 4 the reasoning underpinning Point 5 was fatally flawed.
Ireland rejecting the Fiscal Compact will not be seen as us rejecting it as a half measure. It will be seen as Irish petulance. We have thrown down the gauntlet before – on Nice 1 and Lisbon 1 for reasons that most in the EU failed to grasp.
The Taoiseach and his Ministers have shown not the slightest interest in showing Leadership at the EU Council or of building any consensus among the smaller peripheral countries.
Rather the Taoiseach has been content to roll over and have his belly tickled (metaphorically – I hope) by the big two, and hope that no one will ask him any difficult questions.
He has consistently underplayed his hand for the past year. Stories that talked tough and banged the table at his first Council meeting yielded nothing. Since then he has been content to keep his head below the parapet. The same applies to Eamon Gilmore.
There is nothing to suggest that either are capable of building a consensus across the EU. The reality is that neither have attempted it. Their antithesis to travelling to meet other leaders or hold bi-laterals here is mind boggling, especially when you consider how they howled in opposition that the last Government was allowing Ireland’s reputation to slip.
None of this augurs well for Ireland’s forthcoming EU Presidency, but that’s another story.
Those pointless rejections of Nice 1 and Lisbon 1, are now coming back to bite us. Those who urged us to say No then, are once again in the vanguard urging us to Vote No once more. Their reasoning has not changed. They are as Eurosceptic and anti European as they ever were.
Saying No now would be seen as biting the hand that feeds us – even when that hand has been making a few bob from what its been doing.
Worse still saying No would not gain anything by saying No – except to put ourselves in some undefined limbo beyond the revised European Stability Mechanism. Whereas our saying No in Nice 1 and Lisbon 1 held up the process of ratifying those treaties, saying No now will halt nothing.
We have no veto. We have no bargaining chips on this one. There is no point in threatening to pull the trigger when everyone else knows we have no ammo in the chamber. UCD’s Dr Ben Tonra makes this point very clearly in an excellent post on the politicalreform.e page here.
The conclusion is that we must pass the Fiscal Compact treaty and then use that passing of the Treaty to build a coalition of smaller countries across the EU to tackle the real problem facing us.
I would love to think that saying No would urge the EU into actions that are long overdue. The sad reality is that it will not.
So, just like the French Socialists who were compelled to vote for Chirac in Round Two of the 2002 Presidential elections, rather than seeing Le Pen slip through, I may be taking a disinfectant mat with me to the polling station as I vote Yes.
I want a better treaty. I want a treaty that tackles the real problems. This treaty itself even acknowledges the need for a further treaty.
If passing this one is the price we must pay to get to that point – then let us do so – and quickly.