And how democracy in Europe vanishes in 2 easy steps.......
Irish Times: Lisbon Treaty may be altered without need for referendum
BRUSSELS IS working on a plan to avoid a referendum, in Ireland or elsewhere, by adopting a special procedure to meet German demands for changes to the Lisbon Treaty.
With Europe under intensive pressure to calm the debt emergency, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy will urge leaders at a dinner in Brussels tomorrow night to support a limited change to the treaty which can be approved by a unanimous vote of heads of state and government....... sources briefed on private talks with Berlin and Paris said the amendments they were seeking could be made by rewriting a protocol attached to the treaty which sets out how Europe deals with countries which persistently breach budget guidelines.
Under article 126 of the treaty on the functioning of the EU, which gives effect to the Lisbon pact, government leaders have the power to replace the “protocol on the excessive deficit procedure” by voting unanimously to do so. Although the leaders must “consult” the European Central Bank and the European Parliament, this mechanism is seen as a back-door route to treaty change as the protocol has the same legal effect as the treaty itself. “The [Irish] Government was already empowered to make such changes when the treaty was approved,” said a high-level European official who is involved in preparations for the summit.
The Government is obliged under the Crotty judgment of the Supreme Court to conduct a referendum on any measure which exceeds the essential scope or objectives of existing treaty provisions. While the text of the actual proposal remains subject to negotiation, legal experts believe the kind of protocol change Mr Van Rompuy has in mind may not trigger a referendum.
“Altering the protocol doesn’t change the procedure set out in article 126. It merely changes the manner in which it is implemented,” said Dr Gavin Barrett, a law lecturer at University College Dublin.
Grauniad: Radical eurozone shakeup could see Brussels get austerity powers
Confidential paper from council president Herman Van Rompuy proposes empowering the commission to impose austerity
The European commission could be empowered to impose austerity measures on eurozone countries that are being bailed out, usurping the functions of government in countries such as Greece, Ireland, or Portugal. Bailed-out countries could also be stripped of their voting rights in the European Union, under radical proposals that have been circulating at the highest level in Brussels before this week's crucial EU summit on the sovereign debt crisis.
A confidential paper for EU leaders by the EU council president, Herman Van Rompuy, who will chair the summit on Thursday and Friday, said eurobonds or the pooling of eurozone debt would be a powerful tool in resolving the crisis, despite fierce German resistance to the idea. It called for "more intrusive control of national budgetary policies by the EU" and laid out various options for enforcing fiscal discipline supra-nationally.
The two-page paper, obtained by the Guardian, formed the basis for discussions on an interim report tabled by Van Rompuy, the European commission and the Eurogroup of countries that have adopted the euro, which is to be debated on Wednesday among senior officials in an attempt to build a consensus ahead of the summit............... The options outlined by Van Rompuy heavily emphasise the need for a new punitive regime overseen by EU institutions that would be given new powers of intervention. The proposals and policy options, if agreed, will be seen as seriously curbing the sovereignty of member states in setting budgetary, economic, and fiscal policy.
For countries deemed to be insolvent and in receipt of eurozone and International Monetary Fund bailouts but failing to meet the terms, Van Rompuy raised the prospect of drastic action, suggesting: "The granting of exceptional powers to the [European] commission (or another body) to take enforceable measures in the country concerned so as to ensure the stability of the euro area." It added: "In case of consistent non-compliance, political sanctions such as the temporary suspension of voting rights [in EU councils]" might be imposed......
As part of a German-led drive for a eurozone "fiscal union", Van Rompuy highlighted the potential for harmonising pension reforms, social security systems, labour market policy, and financial regulation: "Consideration could be given to use legislation to define minimum common features."........... Other "possible further steps" generating a "higher degree of economic convergence" in the eurozone could include reinforcing the commission's and the Eurogroup's rights of prior scrutiny "of all major economic reform plans" and sanctions if the commission's recommendations to individual countries are ignored. Van Rompuy also raised the possibility of using the EU budget to reward sound fiscal conduct within the eurozone – and to punish recalcitrants.
On the two most important rules governing the single currency – that budget deficits do not exceed 3% of gross domestic product and that national debt ceilings stay within 60% of GDP – Van Rompuy called for "stricter rules" and "extended capacity of the EU institutions to enforce them". Countries in breach of the euro rulebook could have to submit draft budgets "for approval" to the Eurogroup and the commission. The document said "a budget adopted not in line with the stability and growth pact [euro rulebook] could be considered in breach of EU obligations"............