The second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty takes place on the 2nd October and it will be a vote on exactly the same treaty as before. Not a single comma or full stop has been changed. Even the questions put to the voters have not altered. On the basis that the Irish Government has been given additional legal guarantees and assurances to address the concerns of the Irish people they will be asked to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.
There is a huge question mark concerning the status of the ‘legal’ guarantees obtained by the Irish Government at the European Union Council meeting of leaders in June of this year. It is not just a matter of the legality of the guarantees; the sincerity of the Member States giving those guarantees must also be questioned.
This is of particular concern in so far as the Lisbon Treaty provides for the EU to adopt the Charter of Fundamental Rights and will give jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice in respect of the Charter. The implementation of the Charter is subject to misinterpretation and misapplication. Sexual and reproductive health rights are now deemed to provide a women’s right to abortion and contraception, and more so for minors without their parent’s consent or knowledge. The rights of the child override the rights of parents leading to the state having extra powers to remove children from their homes, sanction abortions for minors and usurp the role of parents. The right of parents to be the educators of their children, even if that means home schooling, is construed as child abuse.
This was a major issue in last year’s Irish referendum. Concern that the Charter would trump Articles 40, 41 and 42 of the Irish Constitution, which provide protection for the right to life, the family and education, played a major part in the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008.
In July 2008 President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, and at the time President of the EU Council, was in Dublin on a charm offensive, while at the same time his government was supporting the organisation of a Symposium in Paris planning the extension of abortion to Ireland and the rest of Europe. This was duplicity at its most blatant. At the beginning of September this year, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat government in Germany was hosting a conference in Berlin to discuss strategies for reproductive health rights [abortion and contraception] called the ‘Berlin Call to Action’. This was hardly Christian and calls in to question the sincerity of the German government’s guarantee. But this also applies to all the northern EU Member States who actively promote and support population control. They cannot have it both ways.
The new competences granted to the EU by the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights will allow the European Commission new areas in which to interfere. They just need an excuse and that will be provided by one of the new provisions in the Lisbon Treaty. The citizens’ initiative provides the vehicle by which one million EU citizens can petition the European Commission on issues falling within the EU’s competence. International Planned Parenthood Federation has already identified this opening and is well advanced in their plans to force the EC to address the issue of abortion.
In 2007 IPPF – in its document ‘Why We Need to Talk About Abortion’ – targeted the predominantly Catholic European countries and urged the European Commission and the European Parliament to drive the issue of abortion forward. The official EU policy is that abortion is not part of its remit, but that has not stopped the EP from passing motions seeking to extend abortion provision or the EC from linking the provision of aid with reproductive health rights.
France and the European Union institutions have supported Planned Parenthood in devising a strategy to extend abortion throughout Europe. The symposium organised by Planned Parenthood and held in Paris on the 19th and 20th September 2008 followed the usual method of operation of IPPF and is similar to the Conference held in Belfast in 2003. Rally support from all the small unrepresentative pro-abortion organisations under the pretext of promoting women’s rights and reproductive health provision and enlist the support of sympathetic officials in government and health authorities. Then use this gathering as proof that there is a genuine demand for the implementation of their agenda notwithstanding the legal and statutory position or the lack of popular support. The Paris Symposium was on a much grander scale with support from European Union institutions, the European Office of the World Health Organisation, French regional and city government, and the Minister for Health. Nicolas Sarkozy was also supportive, although we are not sure in which capacity as he was at the time President of France and President of the European Council.
The German Government and UNFPA hosted the Berlin meeting this month when 400 pro-abortion activists planned the universal access to reproductive health rights [that is abortion and contraception] at local, national and international level. All the major players were in attendance including IPPF and International Women’s Health Coalition. These were the main cheer leaders for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Government representatives were present to advise on the best ways to push their government’s agendas. Tom Merrick, former Senior Population Adviser to the World Bank, was also on hand to offer advice. If there is any doubt about the active involvement of the German government, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development produced the document that was reflected in the ‘Berlin Call to Action’, which will be distributed to policymakers and donors.
If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified abortion, via the Charter of Fundamental Rights, will become part of the EU’s remit, albeit a joint competence with Member Sates. The Lisbon Treaty will make the Charter of Fundamental Rights part of EU law and allow the European Court of Justice to determine conflicting interpretations between the Charter and Member’s Constitutions. It is standard practice for IPPF to apply for judicial reviews seeking clarification of the law as a way of changing the law. The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled against Poland on the matter of abortion. It has agreed to hear an application supported by Irish Family Planning and brought by some Irish women at the European Court of Human Rights claiming that contrary to the Irish Constitution, they should have been allowed an abortion in Ireland.
The fact that the Court is considering the application shows that having a provision in a Constitution counts for nothing. If Polish Law or the Irish Constitution were paramount these applications would never have been countenanced and struck out. Once the European Court of Justice takes responsibility for these sorts of applications we can expect more of the same, especially if the EC and EP succumb to pressure from IPPF.
There is another aspect that needs consideration. There is no need for the Charter to be incorporated in to EU law as all the Member States are also members of the Council for Europe and already bound by the provisions in the Charter. So why bother? The answer is that the Lisbon Treaty will confer statehood on the EU and like any state they need to sign up to the Charter in addition to adopting the other trappings of a state. The EU as a state and fully signed up adopter of the Charter will come within the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. IPPF can engineer a situation where the EU is taken before the ECHR instead of the Member State.
So can the Irish take any guarantees seriously?