EU funded 'news' site Euractiv has an interview with Fine Gael MEP Colm Burke. It doesn't take much leading questioning from the interviewer to get Burke to reveal his sympathy for the growing number of conspiracy theorists linking the Irish No campaign with the US industrial-military complex:
Talk to us about Libertas, the group that was arguably the most vocal and high-profile anti-Lisbon force in the Irish referendum. Questions are emerging not just in Ireland but throughout the EU as to where this group received their substantial funding. What is your opinion?
I can't comment on where they're receiving their funding, but I can say this: I would say to you, based on my own involvement here in the European Parliament, that the pro-NATO lobby* is not happy with the idea of Europe becoming involved in peacekeeping operations. I had clear evidence of that, for instance when EU troops were assigned to Chad, and I would certainly not be surprised by the arms trade in America becoming involved in trying to destabilise the development of a common European defence.
The idea of arms trade lobbyists funding 1.2 million euro towards ensuring a 'no' to Lisbon in Ireland is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility.
As with many conspiracy theories, this one is clearly irrational and contradictory on a number of counts. The US Government has consistently supported the Lisbon Treaty and its predecessor, the EU Constitution. And why would shadowy arms trade lobbyists oppose greater European spending on defence, and a more activist role for European armed forces (an argument the UK has made to support the Treaty)?
But rationality or pursuit of the truth was never behind speculation of the links between Libertas and the Pentagon: these rumours are designed to discredit and smear opponents of the Treaty in the run up to a second referendum.
When the Irish are made to vote again, the stakes will be extremely high, and supporters of the treaty are prepared to fight dirty. As we reported previously, the Commission has already hired a firm of American 'PR hitmen' to set up a "crisis communications" unit to promote the EU - these are not the sort of people who are hired by their clients for friendly, softly-softly publicity.
The second Lisbon referendum campaign has already started, and this steady drip of unsubstantiated rumour and speculation over the No campaign's funding is only the beginning.
*On a different note, it is interesting to hear Burke refer to tensions in Brussels between the "pro-NATO lobby" and those who want to see a greater role for the EU in defence/ peacekeeping. If this is true, it goes against the UK Government's line that the Lisbon Treaty is designed to complement and reenforce, but not challenge NATO.