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Lisbon: binding legal document needs no quotation marks

MAUREEN O’Donnell’s misconceptions on the Lisbon guarantees and her reckless casting of Angela Merkel as a modern-day Hitler (Letters, September 7) cannot be left unchecked.

Using the old quotation marks trick, she calls into question the status of this “binding legal document”.

However, the guarantees are not a “binding legal document”, they are a binding legal document. They represent a formal agreement, signed by the heads of state or government of 27 countries, which has been deposited with the UN. It doesn’t get much more binding when it comes to the legality of an international accord.

The fact is that if Lisbon is ratified, the European Court of Justice must respect the guarantees, from the outset, just as it did when Denmark negotiated opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty in 1993.

In addition to this legal weight, it was decided that the assurances would be given the political weight of treaty status, when they are incorporated into the next EU treaty. This is likely to happen within a year with Croatia’s accession treaty.

On this question of future accession, Ms O’Donnell’s stand turns from idle misconception into dangerous accusation. She compares the recent decision, agreed mutually between the EU and certain eastern European countries to join together with that of Nazi Germany’s lebensraum expansion in the 1940s. Croatia is not set to join the EU next year because Germany says so – this will be a unanimous decision on the part of the 27 member states and the Croatian government.

In contrast, there is no unanimity on the question of Turkish accession. As well as a general feeling of “not today, but maybe some day”, even among countries that support Turkish accession, the French staunchly oppose Turkey’s membership because most of its landmass does not lie within the European continent. There is a physical limit to the European continent, as Morocco found out when its EU membership bid was rejected on “geographical grounds” in 1987.

The EU will expand as far, and only as far, as its members unanimously decide. None of this changes with the Lisbon treaty.

Instead of using the upcoming referendum as an excuse to confuse the issue with irrelevant talk of a Euro empire, I suggest people from both camps stick to the text of the treaty and the guarantees as a basis for their position. While Ms O’Donnell bemoans the fact that Sarkozy or Merkel won’t be nipping down to Ballinlough to talk her through these, both are freely available online at lisbontreaty.ie.

Nigel Smith

Ballygarth Manor

Julianstown

Co Meath


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