Irish media get new rules for Lisbon treaty coverage

EU Observer (Link) (August 7, 2009)

New guidelines for Irish media to cover the Lisbon Treaty referendum take effect at noon Friday (7 August).

Announced by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), the new guidelines clarify that there is no requirement to allocate an absolute equality of airtime to opposing sides of the referendum debate during editorial coverage.

The proportion of airtime allocated to opposing sides must however "be fair to all interests and undertaken in a transparent manner."

The Irish are to vote on the Lisbon treaty for a second time on 2 October, after a majority rejected the document in a referendum 12 June 2008.

In previous referendum campaigns public broadcasters were obliged to give equal coverage of both the Yes and the No campaigns, after a former professor at Trinity College, Anthony Coughlan, made a complaint at Irish courts in June 1997 over unbalanced media coverage by the public broadcaster RTE, which gave 42,5 minutes coverage to the yes-camp and 10 minutes to the no-camp in a referendum on divorce.

The BCI has also announced a black-out on Lisbon treaty media coverage from the morning of the 1 October until polls close on 2 October.

During this period broadcast output must not include "material which relates directly to the content of the Treaty of Lisbon and/or the constitutional amendments associated with the Treaty."

The new guidelines cover "commercial, community, institutional and temporary broadcasters," but do not mention the Internet.

The outcome of the Irish referendum will be eagerly awaited in the rest of Europe, with the text to create important new posts in the EU hierarchy, give more voting power to large EU states, reduce the scope of national vetos and give more law-making responsibility to MEPs.

German concerns

The influence of the national parliament has been a key-concern in Germany, with the country's highest court on 30 June deciding that the Lisbon treaty can only be ratified if the national parliament's role is first strengthened.

The constitutional case was brought by CSU MP Peter Gauweiler and the left party, Die Linke.

The 147 page-long ruling suspended the ratification process of the treaty until the new provisions requested by the court come into force.

The Christian Democratic parties are internally split on how far-reaching powers the German parliament should have over EU lawmaking, with the Bavarian CSU faction of the party being the most keen to curb Brussels.

Negotiations among the political parties in Germany began this week on how to implement the court decision, with agreement on 90 percent of the text already reached, according to German media reports.

Time is short for Berlin as the German parliament will soon be dissolved due to general elections on 27 September.

In a late move Franz Ludwig Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (71) has announced a new complaint at the courts, should the German parliament not implement the Lisbon Treaty in a proper way, securing the position of German parliamentary democracy in the European decision making structures.

"The possibility for co-determination for the parliament (Bundestag) and the federal council (Bundesrat) in Brussels must clearly be improved. The parliament has not taken it self seriously enough", he explained the Berliner Morgenpost.

The former MEP for the CSU party is the son of famous Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, one of the leading Germany army officers of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to kill German dictator Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power in World War II Germany.

The German revolt against the Lisbon Treaty goes deep into the political establishement, with Mr Stauffenberg also being the uncle of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Federal Minister for Economics and Technology in the cabinet of Angela Merkel.

A vote in the German parliament is scheduled for 8 September.