Monday, October 5, 2009

Mixed feelings as I stood at the Brandenburg gate

I was catching a plane to Berlin early on Saturday morning as the early indications of the Lisbon result began to emerge. It looked like it was going to be a decisive yes vote. I arrived in Berlin in the late afternoon and joined hundreds of thousands of Berliners in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Berlin is a magnificent city rich in culture, heritage and history. As I stood looking up at the splendour of the gates and took in the history of this once divided city I did so with mixed emotions. It was great to be celebrating with the people of Berlin the unification of Germany but disappointing to hear of the official Lisbon result – two thirds in favour.

The result was unsurprising. The yes side had the weight of the entire establishment behind them not to mention most of the media. The treaty itself was presented as mere window dressing and its proponents skilfully turned it into a referendum on jobs and economic recovery. The result was always going to be a foregone conclusion. As the campaign dust settles we can now ponder on what it is we actually voted for. We have taken another step towards complete EU integration and the development of a European super state. We have given the EU more power, reduced our voting strength in key institutions, created a constitutional framework for the EU to act as a state on the International stage, lost our veto in key areas, given the EU power to significantly amend existing treaties without recourse to national parliaments or referendums, voted to reduce the size of the commission post 2014 and elevated competition rights over those of workers and public services. It felt ironic to be celebrating the ending of centralised power across Eastern Europe only to see history repeat itself once again. Only time will tell if this will be good or bad.

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