Czech Pro-Life Group Urges NO to Irish Lisbon Vote

By Hilary White

September 16, 2009 ( - A leading Czech pro-life group has urged Irish voters to reject the Lisbon Treaty in their upcoming second referendum, saying a Yes vote will threaten the Irish constitutional guarantees for the unborn. In fact, if the Irish vote Yes in October, the group says, national laws protecting human life in all EU member states could be overturned. 

The Pro-Life Movement of the Czech Republic said that under Lisbon, the European Union's Court of Human Rights will supersede the rights of individual nations to "regulate sensitive ethical norms" internally. As such, the ratification and application of the Lisbon Treaty, the document proposed to replace the defeated EU Constitution, will directly threaten those national laws in countries like Ireland, Malta and Poland that protect the unborn.

The group warned that the EU's Charter of Fundamental Human Rights "does not mention this point specifically, the European Court, within the context of its extensive powers of interpretation of the Charter and the judiciary powers it derives therefrom, may de facto legalise a so-called 'right to abortion' or 'right to euthanasia' for the whole of the European Union."

The Pro-Life Movement also pointed to the so-called "guarantees" obtained by the Irish government that are being touted as a safeguard for Irish national rights in case Lisbon is ratified. These, they said, "do not have sufficient legal weight because they are of a merely legally non-binding declaratory character."

The only way to make these "guarantees" binding, they said, would be to insert them into the wording of Lisbon itself as amendments, which changes would have to be ratified once more in all member states of the European Union.

"Ireland," the group added, is "now deciding not only about the future of its own country, but also whether norms decided at the European level will widen the possibilities of attacks against human life to apply to all the member states of the European Union, including the Czech Republic."

Other pro-life leaders have made similar points in recent months. Pat Buckley, the representative at Brussels of Britain's Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), told in July that under Lisbon the Irish constitutional guarantees protecting human life risk being declared by the EU Court of Justice to be contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, even though no "right to abortion" exists on paper.

The Lisbon Treaty has been criticised by many in Europe as being effectively identical to the 300-page EU Constitution that was defeated in 2005 by referenda in the Netherlands and France. Pro-democracy groups have warned that the Lisbon Treaty will enable EU institutions to override national laws and effectively negate national sovereignty in a swathe of areas from defence to taxation to labour laws.

Declaration 17 of the Lisbon Treaty says that the EU would have primacy over the laws of member states: "The Conference recalls that, in accordance with well settled case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the Treaties have primacy over the law of Member States, under the conditions laid down by the said case law."

A year ago Ireland, the last country in the EU to retain the right of the public to vote on the ratification of Lisbon, voted No to adopting Lisbon, effectively scuppering the whole process which requires the unanimous consent of all member states. Ireland was then placed under immense pressure from EU officials to do a replay, prompting jeers and outrage  from many quarters saying that the EU apparently did not know the meaning of the word "No." The pro-EU Irish government at last agreed to a second referendum, set for October.

Meanwhile, the debate over Lisbon ratification continues around the EU, with more demands for referendums. This week, a YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph found that 57 per cent of UK voters think a future Conservative government should hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty even if it is already ratified when it is elected. The same poll found that 43 per cent said Britain should leave the EU altogether.

David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, who is likely to be Britain's next Prime Minister, has said that Britain should remain "in Europe, not ruled by Europe." It has been revealed that even without the Lisbon Treaty, on the order of 80 per cent of British laws are no longer made by her native Parliament, but are put in place by rubber stamping EU directives and regulations.

Tory MP Peter Lilley told the House of Commons in June 2008, "The total scale of EU legislation is enormous. Last year, the EU passed 177 directives, which are more or less equivalent to our Acts of Parliament, and 2,033 regulations, which become directly enforceable in this place, not to mention 1,045 decisions. Even that huge tally ignores the extent to which our powers are diminished by our inability to do things that we would like to do because they would conflict with European law.

"When I was a Minister, officials would frequently say, 'No, Minister, you can't do that', because something was within the exclusive competence of the European Union."

Among those who objected to the pressure on Ireland for a second referendum was British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan who told the EU Parliament in June that it is becoming clear that the Lisbon Treaty will be implemented no matter what individual national governments may decide. The "tactic," he said, is to "disregard the votes and implement the Lisbon Treaty as though the electorates of France, the Netherlands and Ireland had in fact voted yes."

"One by one the most contentious articles and provisions are being brought in…And then you're going to turn around to the Irish electorate and say, 'Well, it's too late to vote no now because we've implemented the whole thing so all you would be doing is annoying everybody and isolating yourselves.' When in fact the bulk of the Lisbon Treaty is already in force de facto if not de jure."

Hannan added that he did not know what the Irish would decide in October, but "these are, after all, the people who saw off the might of the British Empire. If they now give in to the European Parliament, I think they would be diminished as a people."

Read related coverage:

Lisbon Will Force Abortion into Ireland through EU Charter of Human Rights: Irish Pro-Life Lobby 

EU Seeks Legal Means to Shut Up Eurosceptic Bloggers 

More of LSN's extensive Lisbon Referendum coverage here.

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