Assurances heralded as safeguarding Ireland’s national interests from further European Union encroachment were thoroughly dishonest and worthless, Andrew Brons MEP told the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) in Brussels this week.
When the Lisbon Treaty was being ratified, opt-outs were drawn-up by the European Council that safeguarded Ireland’s national policies on abortion, taxation and military neutrality. Mr Brons pointed out that the Council didn’t have the power to give such assurances.
“The Lisbon Treaty was drawn up by the European Council, which is not a legislative body. It might negotiate the content of European Union treaties but those treaties do not become legally binding until they are ratified by all member states,” he said.
“Ireland’s opt-out has not been ratified by all of the member states and so is not law.”
The European Council has also granted opt-outs to the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Poland but just like the assurance given to Ireland, they have no validity.
Speaking during a debate on the relationship between the European Parliament and institutions representing national governments (such as the European Council and the Eurogroup), Mr Brons also raised the issue of a claim last year by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in which he said that he was not responsible to the European Parliament.
“Perhaps he was using the word responsible in two different senses and treating them as though they were interchangeable,” Mr Brons told the committee.
“It is clear that the President of the European Council is not responsible to the Parliament in the sense of being accountable, of being capable of being removed by it.
“However, that should not prevent him from being responsible in the sense of being answerable to it,” he continued.
Mr Brons said that if Mr Von Rompuy were accountable to the European Parliament, he would have been asked about the “opt-out” clauses in particular.
“He might also have been able to explain the extent to which the European Council’s assurances given to Ireland (about abortion, taxation and military neutrality) were of any worth or value at all.”
The “opt-out” clause in question, known as Protocol No. 30, and the protocols affecting Ireland’s concerns about the Lisbon Treaty, were drawn up by the European Council.
The EC is not a legislative body, even though it negotiates the content of EU treaties.
These treaties are only given effect when they are ratified by all member states.
“However, they have not been ratified by all of the member states and so would appear not to have legal effect,” Mr Brons said.
“We now seem to have confirmation of this from the Saaedi case. The secretariat of the European Council must have known or suspected this to be the case and the governments of the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Poland and Ireland must also have known.
“These ‘protocols’ would be better described as thoroughly dishonest assurances,” Mr Brons concluded.