[Sinn Fein]

15th July 2003


McLaughlin - EU constitution represents serious challenge for Irish society

Speaking at today's press conference to launch Sinn Fein's initial response to the draft EU constitution the Party's chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin said: ``This new EU draft constitution represents a serious challenge for Irish society. It is a test for the Irish government in that it is they who will have to negotiate = through the Inter-Governmental-Conference (IGC) not just on behalf of the 26-Country citizens but ideally on behalf of all the citizens on the island.

``Our reading of the constitution leads us to believe that the ongoing process of a developing economic and military superpower emerging will be sped up by ratifying an EU constitution. However, we also recognise that there are some positive aspects to this treaty that must be revisited in the coming negotiations process and fleshed out into better proposals.

``Sinn Fein wants to be in the forefront of the debate on what type of Europe is best for us all. We believe that democracy is built upon the sovereignty of the people expressed in the form of the democratic nation-state. Democracy is best exercised at local and national level. We have a policy of critical engagement with the EU.

``Sinn Fein agrees that the simplification and consolidation of existing EU Treaties is necessary. But we are opposed to such a process being used to diminish sovereignty and increase the power of the EU as the Draft Constitution does. We are opposed to the development of the European Union into a state therefore we do not accept the argument that the EU must have a Constitution.

``Notwithstanding our scepticism about the whole notion of a European Constitution, Sinn Fein believes that it is our responsibility to influence the debate and to ensure that the 26 county Government uses its negotiating position to ensure that those anti-democratic elements currently contained in the Draft Constitution are excised.''

Sinn Fein spokesperson on International Affairs and the EU Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD commenting on the militarisation of the EU and on security and defence issues said: ``Sinn Fein has long warned that the EU is becoming progressively militarised, and predicted that developments pointed towards the establishment of an EU army with both force projection capabilities and an internal security function. Some dismissed this as exaggeration. But the provisions in the draft Constitution confirm our prediction.

``We believe that it is the duty of Irish IGC negotiators to protect Irish independence in defence policy, and specifically the traditional policies of military neutrality and UN primacy, by at minimum securing a specific article explicitly recognising the right of those states requiring a UN mandate for military operations. They must also insist that this be given the same weight of recognition as that accorded to the obligations of NATO states.

``In the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy there are a number of provisions in the draft constitution that represents serious incursions on Irish sovereignty in foreign and defence policy. We firmly oppose the diminution of sovereignty and democratic accountability in relation to foreign affairs entailed in these Articles. Irish IGC negotiators at minimum, must protect Irish exercise of sovereign independence in international affairs by securing an explicit statement that development cooperation and humanitarian aid, the exercise of EU competence in foreign policy shall not result in Members states being prevented from exercising their competence in foreign policy. They must also ensure the retention and strengthening of the unanimity requirement in both spheres of CFSP, which is undermined by proposals in the draft Constitution.''

Sinn Fein's EU candidate for Dublin Marylou McDonald said, ``There are a number of key provisions in the draft constitution which give a clear indication of the drive that is on to create a world superpower out of the EU. These provisions include the evolving relationships between the Union and the Member States; the primacy of EU law and the establishment for the first time of a Single Legal Personality for the EU.'' She called on the Irish negotiating team to reject the provisions of the draft constitution that allow for the EU to become a single legal entity and that give it primacy in law over national governments.

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