Any chances of open, honest debate on the EU?

John Bruton wrote in The Irish Times on Monday on how Irish sovereignty would be maximised under the Lisbon treaty. Bruton, a former Taoiseach and current EU ambassador to the US, referred to Department of Foreign Affairs’ white paper on the treaty (PDF).

On the white paper, Bruton states:

“It also said that Ireland’s full participation in the EU is a means of ‘maximising our real sovereignty’.”

But on “maximising sovereignty” the white paper only says:

By concentrating on maximising our real sovereignty — our capacity to influence events at home and abroad – we have been able to draw very significant benefit from our role as a positive and constructive member of the EU.

It mentions this under the title ‘Ireland’s Experience of EU Membership’, and does not in the same breath mention anything about “full participation” in the EU as a means of “maximising our real sovereignty”.

On military missions and common defence, “sovereign decision” and a “sovereign right” are brought up. The white paper refers to EU members as “sovereign States” twice, as follows:

“The Treaty reflects the collective view of 27 sovereign States on how we can best manage our unique relationship within the EU. It aims to equip the Union with the tools it needs to help us deal with the challenges posed by an enlarged Union and a changed world”.

And here:

“The operation of the Union’s institutions reflects the unique character of the Union, a body within which 27 sovereign States  work together in areas defined by the EU Treaties in pursuit of their shared values and interests”.

But as far as I can see Bruton is claiming the white papers says something it does not. It makes up a large part of his article and even the headline of the same (although, an editor or sub-editor could have written the headline).

Whatever about the “real” sovereignty which Bruton and the Department fail to explain, actual sovereignty (ie what is generally accepted as the meaning of the word) is diminished by the EU. Anybody who is even just a little pro-EU should be able to agree that you give away a bit of sovereignty for the advantages of membership of the EU. Anybody who agrees should be saying ‘yes, we give away a bit of sovereignty for other advantages’.

The problem is giving away sovereignty is problematic area in Ireland after having to fight for our independence, and Ireland’s cuts from that struggle have far from fully healed. Indeed with nationalism still strong around Europe, it can be seen as a problematic area in many countries. So, maybe the ultra-pro-EU have valid reasons from twisting the truth about sovereignty?

However, without open and honest debate we get deeper and deeper into lies (on the pro and anti Lisbon and EU sides). It’s a problem for the whole of the EU. More integration is a project been pushed forward again and again, open debate is lacking all-round. Open debate is not diplmats or governments meeting and working out what they agree on.