Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Out of Many, One

If we approve Lisbon we'll have provided the basis on which the restructured EU can streamline the process of decision-making. We won't be one nation, but we will be one fairly unified people of many nationalities from one end of Europe to the other. We may never be one nation, but that doesn't mean we can't be one transnational people. It is, ultimately, where we are headed.

This fact is denied by the 'Yes' side and accentuated by the 'No' side in the treaty debates. To my mind it is the primary weakness in the Yes argument. If the Yes campaign would own up to this and make the case that this is a good thing for both Ireland and Europe I think people would be less suspicious of the EU.

Recently, John Bruton wrote a column promoting the 'Yes' campaign. {I wasn't sure it was appropriate for the EU's Ambassador to the United States to play so direct a role in the campaign, but that's another issue.}

Bruton appealed to me with a few sentences.
The European Union is the greatest peace process of the 20th century. It is the world's only multinational democracy. No other region of the world has pooled sovereignty among nations that once were at war as the EU has done.
Although I'm not keen on his language and I think the EU can get too much credit here, he's not a million miles from the truth. The EU has been great at deflecting, defusing, channeling national rivalries. Without the EU what sort of Europe would we have?

I think the dilution of the power of the nation state has been fundamental in this. Why are the 'Yes' people so uneasy making this case? Why can't they admit this is what's happening and argue the positives of this?

I'm guessing that they know (or suspect) that the public isn't willing to accept this, that the dilution of our national identity is not a winner. But, why not? Irish people seem to like traveling around Europe. Many have lived in other EU states. There are thousands of people from across the EU living amongst us here. We enjoy fairly easy trade, share a currency, and pool our sovereignty on many issues.

The Lisbon Treaty is all about continuing this process and making it easier. We are many nations, but we are, gradually, becoming one. In fact, the motto for the Lisbon Treaty could be e pluribus unum. Had this been admitted up front maybe the 'Yes' side wouldn't be so worried right now.