Opinion

ROME, February 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The bloom is coming off the rose: only a scant year after the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, that ceded significant sovereign powers of member states to the European Union, the EU’s increasingly minute and strong-arm control of every aspect of life and governance in Europe is starting to wear in some countries. With Irish general elections, and an almost certain defeat for the current government over their handling of the economic crisis, some are speculating that Ireland will become the leading Eurosceptic force in coming years.

Enthusiasm for rule-by-Brussels is waning even in traditionally Europhile quarters in Britain’s coalition government. James Forsyth noted in the Mail on Sunday that even strongly pro-Europe Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was shocked at the extent of EU control over British law. “Nick Clegg was appalled when officials told him that the EU wouldn’t allow VAT [value added tax] to be set at a local level.”

Public anger is increasing at national levels among member states in response to the EU’s attempts to regulate nearly all aspects of economic and civic life in Europe, from the selling price of fish caught in the North Sea, to precise specifications on the manufacture of cheese and cognac in France, to the cutting of peat for fuel in Ireland.

Decisions are being taken at the European level that are likely to cause more anger in some countries that retain more traditional positions on moral issues, such as Poland, Ireland and Lithuania. One such is an upcoming vote on a measure that could compel member states to warn child pornographers that their images are to be deleted from the internet. Under the proposal, child pornographers will also have to be informed of their right to appeal against any removal of material.

Also under increasing criticism is the high-handed attitude of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which the Lisbon Treaty made effectively binding on EU member states, that has recently ruled on Ireland’s abortion law and is attempting to force Britain to give the vote to incarcerated criminals. The notorious crucifix case – in which the ECHR, based on a single complaint, ordered Italy to remove all crucifixes from public schools and offices throughout the country – is still under appeal.

It is in Ireland, however, where elections will happen in eight days, that the growing disenchantment could be most effective. With Irish constitutional law requiring a referendum on all questions of further integration with Europe, and with anti-EU sentiment growing in inverse proportion to the country’s economic downturn, some are speculating that Ireland may be the key to reigning in Europe’s white-knuckle control over member states. 

During the second referendum campaign on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, Eurosceptics warned that Ireland would be selling out its national sovereignty in key areas such as abortion, taxation and policing. At the time, the strongly Europhile government strenuously denied these warnings, saying that only more EU integration would stave off economic disaster. Fury at the failure of those promises is likely to turn next week’s election into a rout.

The recent €85 billion “bailout” package for Irish banks from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, with consequent “austerity measures” radically increasing taxes and pushing down minimum wages, seems to be the last straw for Irish voters.

Hugo Brady, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, wrote in the Irish Times that the election will “replace a discredited administration loathed by most Irish voters.”

While EU politicians regard the Irish bailout as a high-minded act of generosity, in Ireland the public regards it as a sell-out of the country’s economy to foreign powers and a transfer to the public of the astronomical debts owed by bankers and developers.

Brady writes, “With a decade of austerity ahead and with no option to default, Ireland’s voters gape in disbelief at new demands by continental politicians that it must now raise its low corporation tax rate.”

The election, Brady said, “marks a shift in hostility towards the bail-out and the EU in general which its partners would be foolish to ignore.”

It is estimated that by the end of 2011, Ireland will have lost 300,000 jobs from a labor market of 2.1 million. Daniel Korski wrote in the Spectator that Ireland’s “bail-out/austerity programme” may have the effect of “ultimately decimating the country’s pro-European movement.”

In Britain, irritation with the EU’s control over parliament is increasing with more public opposition to EU demands, such as the closure of thousands of local post offices throughout the country. A petition signed by over 4 million voters was recently presented to Parliament to oppose the closures, but MPs admitted that they had no control over the decision that had come from Brussels.

Other issues under discussion in the House of Lords include the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which has come under fire recently with revelations that Britain is expending more police efforts to catch foreign suspects than any other EU country. The EAW is now being examined by a Parliamentary justice committee over concerns that it violates the principle of habeas corpus and due process.

In a debate on February 8 in the House of Lords, Lord Vinson said, “My Lords, under the guise of anti-terrorism and protecting society, many measures throughout history have been introduced that chip away quietly at many of our ancient liberties as enshrined, not least, under habeas corpus.

“I hope that the Minister will take very seriously the widespread anxiety about the continual erosion of the rights of the British citizen, which is done possibly for good short-term reasons but, in the long run, is chipping away at many of our basic and fundamental liberties.”

This week, a series of articles in British newspapers revealed that the economic crisis is not touching the salaries and perks of EU officials. It was revealed that the ECHR justices enjoy tax-free salaries of €180,000 despite the fact that 23 out of 47 members of the Court had no judicial experience before their appointment. They are also entitled to final salary pensions and three months’ holiday a year.

As European economies, especially those of Ireland and Greece, continue to stagger under EU-imposed restrictions, research by the group Open Europe found that the EU spent €153 million on travel and a further €121 million on staff missions in 2010. The €274 million total exceeds the amount spent on food aid from the Commission’s humanitarian aid budget. One MEP junket to the Seychelles cost £50,000 in hotels and flights alone.

MEP Nikki Sinclaire revealed this week that about a sixth of MEPs check in for work on a Friday, in order to receive the £258 daily allowance, before leaving shortly after for the weekend.

Political analysts have noted a cooling of Conservative party enthusiasm for the EU, with UK Chancellor George Osborne yesterday refusing to sign off on a routine approval of the EU budget for 2009. This symbolic gesture, a spokesman for the Treasury said, was to protest wasteful spending in the EU.

“The Chancellor has put Europe on notice that we can’t afford not to put Europe’s house in order,” the spokesman said. Sweden and the Netherlands also abstained on the vote, with the Dutch Finance Ministry saying it was because, “€2 billion has disappeared.”

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