Ireland: Socialist Party representative questions German Chancellor about Lisbon Treaty

“The Lisbon Treaty demands more expenditure on the armaments industry and intensifies the militarisation of the European Union”.

The following exchange between former Socialist Party TD (Irish MP) Joe Higgins and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on the Lisbon Treaty, which will be put to a referendum in Ireland, took place on 14 April, during a visit by the Chancellor to Dublin.

Socialist Party representative questions German Chancellor about Lisbon Treaty

‘Forum on Europe’

Ninety-Second plenary session of the National Forum On Europe, St Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle

The plenary session commenced on Monday, 14th April 2008 as follows:


Well a cháirde, tá sé in am dúinn tús do chur leis an dara cruinniú is nócha den bhFóram Náisiúnta um an Eoraip.

Welcome to this, the 92nd full plenary meeting of the National Forum on Europe. We are indeed honoured today to welcome to the Forum and to Dublin Castle the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel. I would like to extend to her a céad mile failte or, in her own language, herzlich willkommen. (Applause)

We are particularly grateful that the Chancellor has found time to address us during her short visit to Ireland. And if my words of welcome are brief, Chancellor, it is only because I don’t wish to delay our discussions

Angela Merkel speaks for 20 minutes

The Irish Prime Minister and other speakers address the meeting.


Thank you. Mr Joe Higgins, please.

Mr Higgins:

Go raibh maith agat, Cathaoirleach. Chancellor Merkel, may I first express the hope that the Fine Gael party, your host this weekend and ideological soul mates, I suppose, have received you with due respect and courtesy. And I say that because recently in our national parliament their leader Mr. Kenny said that undoubtedly during the Lisbon Treaty campaign, quote, every head banger in Europe will come to Ireland. I would like to clarify that he meant to insult only those of us who are opposed to the Treaty.

Now I want to ask four brief questions, Chancellor.

First, we are told that the Lisbon Treaty gives a legal basis to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We are told that the Laval judgment of the European Court of Justice, which endorses a low wage economy and legitimises what we call the race to the bottom, could not happen if Lisbon is passed. Chancellor, what is your understanding? And I ask you this because your government is opposed to a national minimum wage for German workers and you support the German employers in that. I ask you because a colleague of mine in Berlin, Lucy Redler of Sozialistischen Alternative  you might have heard of her  directed me to a report from the trade union VERDI, which finds that quite legally in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Berlin where a suite costs €3,000 per night, house cleaners legally get 60 cents per room to clean a room, an incredible €2.80 per hour. Now, Chancellor, will the Charter of Fundamental Rights take that worker in Germany from those slave wage conditions or indeed must German workers rely on their own mobilisation, as your train drivers did in their recent strike?

Two, 71% of the German people oppose the privatisation of German railways, but your government insists that it will happen. Why should we, working people of Europe, give any further help with the privatisation of public services, which is clearly pushed and envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty, when governments like your own disregard the views of the majority of your own people and again take the employers’ side?

Three, the Lisbon Treaty demands more expenditure on the armaments industry and intensifies the militarisation of the European Union. Now, Chancellor, twothirds of the German people oppose the presence of German troops in Afghanistan. You yourself, like the Irish government, indeed like our Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, you supported the criminal invasion of Iraq by the United States and Britain, which is an utter disaster for the Iraqi people, and you support the socalled war on terror, which involves the savagery of Guantanamo, the extraordinary rendition. But a big majority of German people are opposed to those policies. Why should we vote for Lisbon when it gives a militarised foreign policy a further impetus which could interfere in other countries in the future, just as the United States did?

And lastly, Cathaoirleach and Chancellor, last October 76% of the German people in an opinion poll demanded a referendum in Germany on the Lisbon Treaty. Now, you made many references in your address today about democracy and democratic rights. Why did you not give and do you not give the German people the democratic right to vote on the Lisbon Treaty? Go raibh maith agat.

Chancellor Merkel:

First of all, thank you very much for all the contributions to the discussion. I think they are a fair reflection of wide range of views. I cannot of course go into all of the details due to time constraints but allow me to come to the core issues.

Why is Germany not holding a referendum? It is not something that exists in our political system. We do not hold referendums in Germany at the national level. And there is a very practical reason for this. etc etc etc

Now the social dimension: Let me tell you I looked at the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and compared it to the German constitution. It includes a lot of things, a lot of social rights. Seen from my party background, it would call for many compromises. However the trade unions should acknowledge on reflection that their concerns have been addressed in a very fair way. I think a fair compromise has been reached that also gears Europe to tackling global challenges.

Now minimum wages: In Germany we have a situation where both sides of industry, the collective bargaining partners, enjoy rights protected by our law to conclude pay agreements. Few other European countries enjoy this right. It also imposes certain duties on the social partners. And my party’s thinking on this is that the social partners should shoulder some of the responsibility when there is a risk of cheap labour coming from outside. We have the provisions of the Posted Workers Directive and of certain protective measures in our social and labour laws that safeguard our workers. Etc, etc.

To read the full speech etc visit:

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May 2008