The Irish government just declared that a new referendum will be hold on the Lisbon Treaty in October this year. Although this time, analysts and polls suggest that the yes should win, the Irish Ministries in charge have left nothing to chance. Most interestingly, they have provided a website to explain the treaty in plain and understandable English.
This is, I think, a great move. It contrasts with the unreadable attempts made previously by the same government but also many other ones (such as France and the Netherlands...). I advise anyone interested in the Treaty to have a look at it. The beginning of the .pdf brochure which can be downloaded on it is very Irish centric, but everything after the Chapter 1 is invaluable information on the way the EU will function in the future, should Ireland, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic ratify it eventually. Even better, this brochure explains in layman terms what are the goals and common objectives and ideas of the European Union (as per the new treaty) and I found this a great reading. Something, which, I believe, should be taught in schools and published in the press a lot more often...
So, for the sake of it, here it is (from the brochure's Chapter 2):
The European Union as a Community of Values
2. The preamble to the Treaty on European Union, as revised by the Lisbon Treaty, will include for the first time a reference to Europe’s cultural, religious and humanist inheritance, “from which have developed the universal values of inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law”.
3. The opening articles of the new Treaty seek to establish the nature of the Union as a community of values, on which the Member States confer competences in order to attain their common objectives.
4. Article 1 of the amended Treaty on European Union will eliminate the old distinction between the European Union and the European Community. This article confirms the establishment of a single legal entity, the European Union, which will in formal legal terms, replace and succeed the European Community once the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified. The European Union will have “legal personality”. The Union’s current laws and all other aspects of its legal order remain in force.
5. The nature of the Union now established is further clarified as one “on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives which they have in common” (Article 1).
6. Article 2 further develops the idea of the Union as a community of values in which human dignity, minority rights and equality are given Treaty recognition for the first time.
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.
7. Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union provides that any European State which respects the above values and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union.
8. Article 3 describes the Union’s objectives:
1. The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.
2. The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.
3. The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.
It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.
It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.
It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.
4. The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.
5. In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
6. The Union shall pursue its objectives by appropriate means commensurate with the competences which are conferred upon it in the Treaties.
9. The aim of this article is to set out the Union’s core objectives briefly and in an accessible manner. In the negotiation of this text, particular attention was paid to achieving a balanced treatment of the Union’s economic and social objectives. The reference to “full employment” in paragraph 3 above is a significant change from the existing Treaties which mention only “a high level of employment”. The reference to the United Nations Charter, in paragraph 5, was inserted on the basis of a proposal from the Irish Government.
My apologies for this lengthy quote. And just because I am a nitpicker, here is my only criticism on this title. It writes lengthily about values. I hate this term which has no... value. Value is a relative noun and, as such, should not be used to define fixed referents. Let's speak about goals, objectives, ideas, ethics, but please, not about values! Let's please speak about the (positive or negative) value of common goals and ideas. That would at least make some sense.
But all in all, I highly recommend this white paper. I only regret it comes so late.