Friday, June 13, 2008

New hurdles for the European Union

Important things have been happening in Europe lately. While most of the attention in Europe is concentrated in the Euro 2008 soccer tournament, there are some matters that haven't been widely reported by the media recently, all of which affect the fate of the European Union's development.

The European efforts to make the European Union to become a single, multi-national country (as ironic as that sounds) were thwarted once again by voters. Just as it happened back in 2005, when French and Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected a European Constitution, it was now the turn for Irish voters to decide whether to ratify or reject the Lisbon Treaty, which is regarded by many as a new effort to introduce the European Constitution.

The result is far from surprising: A great majority of Irish voters decided that they don't want their country to go ahead on its way to ratify such plan. That is a big hit to the European Union's plan, as its policies require unanimous approval from all member States to implement new laws and regulations.

As it was expected, the Irish vote against the treaty has brought lots of criticism from people not only in Europe, but around the world, claiming that Ireland is slowing down the development of the Union by opposing the Lisbon treaty. How is it possible that the Irish population of less than 5 million people can turn down the will of the rest of the Union, which adds up to more than 450 million people? Well, we cannot be sure that the rest of the European Union is really wishing this treaty to be ratified. Let's not forget that Ireland was in fact the only member State that let its population go to a referendum to ratify or reject such matter; the rest of the countries just held a parliamentary votes rather than going to public consultation.

What would have happened if every country in the European Union let its population vote to accept or reject the treaty? Would more countries have rejected it through referenda? We won't know. It would have been very interesting to see what would have happened in countries like France and the Netherlands, where voters turned down the European Constitution. But that was not the case this time, as both countries passed amendments to their national regulations where vetoes could be applied to referenda, in case that the democratic votes go against the European will. Fortunately for the Irish, their own Constitution requires the country to call referenda whenever these EU treaties, regulations and laws require an unanimous approval from the member States... at least for now.

So what's next? Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland, has an idea about it. He made the following statement after hearing the results of the Irish referendum: "Ireland will find for sure a way to ratify this treaty". In other words, Mr. Tusk is suggesting that the Irish government will probably introduce vetoes and other reforms to ignore the voters' will and ratify the treaty without delay. That is by far the most anti-democratic comment I have read in recent times, and it is more surprising to know that it comes from a leader whose country belongs to a Union that boasts about its democracy and freedom.

Other than that, I congratulate the Irish voters for expressing their will in the ballots, and I also acknowledge the other member States for respecting the results of the referendum in Ireland.

More information about the Irish referendum and its results is available in The Globe and Mail.
Photo by AP


At 9:03 PM , Blogger Linda Margaret said...

The Irish referendum was interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, the Treaty was quite technical, and even many voters were confused as to for what they were voting. Then there was the lack of real turn-out, and the general sense that propaganda pushed the vote rather than discussion.

At 2:16 PM , Blogger Eddie said...

Regardless of the turn-out, it is remarkable that Ireland was the very only country in the European Union that allowed its citizens to vote for or against the Lisbon treaty in a referendum. One thing is true though, and that is that the text itself is quite technical, not for the average person to understand... however, it is the responsibility of the authorities to explain to the population what the treaty is about, given the fact that they are required to vote such issue in a referendum. So at the end of the day, we cannot blame the Irish or propaganda of turning down the treaty... perhaps people really had the idea that it was not in their best interest to ratify it for now.


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