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Europe, derailed

European Union referendum Ireland
Their wishes came true (via informatique, Flickr)

There once were some voters in Dublin
Who found the EU very troublin’
They don’t play the goat
So they cast a no vote
And now all of Europe’s a bubblin’

(„Mark“ on the WHYS-blog)

The Irish have voted and the EU gazes in shock: With its rejection of the Lisbon treaty, Ireland has derailed the European Union, once again.

The reasons for the “no” consist of people wanting to a lesson to the highly criticised Irish government, the common fear of losing sovereignty and an incipient economic downturn. At the same time, the pro-Lisbon-fraction in Dublin and Brussels did not manage to show that the EU has had any benefits except from the money it gave to help to make Ireland the prosperous nation it is. A refusal by a population in which over 80 percent consider themselves EU-friendly shows the lack of legitimacy of the giant bureaucracy Brussels has become.

Ironically, the Irish vote will amplify the current scepticism: France will not only have to abandon some of its other plans for its starting EU Presidency in June, it will have to lobby hard to simply consider Ireland’s vote as an Irish problem. The EU summit next week will very likely show a unanimous appeal, lead by France, Germany and the UK (with Prime Minster Gordon Brown risking a further slip in popularity), to continue ratification and leave the Irish behind, making the EU a 26+1 club for the next years, with Ireland joining again later.

There has been a lot of criticism of the ratification of the Lisbon treaty being „an undemocratic act“. This is overstated. Of course I would like to have a EU that gets his legitimacy by all 500 million of its people – but this would not be a decision about the issues, but as in all European ballots, a majority would see it as a referendum about the current government’s policy (see France in 2005). Parliaments’ MPs are, how much you may criticise their work, representatives of the people – their vote works as a proxy in changes of the Grundgesetz, too. There are a lot of problems I have with the Lisbon treaty – see German MP Peter Gauweiler’s complaint at the constitutional court or the armament-passage – the lack of a referendum is not the worst. And, after all, is not the fact that the parliament votes about this treaty, but about the MP’s obligation to vote along party lines and „common EU sense“.

The „Irish rebellion“ might be celebrated by some, but there are plenty of problems if the EU will stay as it is: A power dominance of the Commission over the EU Parliament, the continuing slowdown of the EU Council’s decisions, the lack of a common foreign (remember Iraq?) and energy policy that will continue to make Brussels the place for countries to serve their self-interest and nothing else, are only some of them.

The real derailment of the EU might have happened some years ago: The negotiations for the constitution missed the chance to ask the question what Europe wants to be if it is not simply an economic aliance; it answered the question involuntarily with „a planet of its own“ by providing a treaty thick as a book and impossible to read. A small charta like the US constitution would have been a solid base for a strong and acceptable EU. With global challenges becoming more and more urgent, it is too late to re-negotiate that now. The European Union will keep hanging in the air for years to come.

2 Gedanken zu „Europe, derailed“

    Trouw sagt:

    It’s the Irish ’no‘ nothing heroic, just a poor lack of realism. In the course of the nineteenth century ran the (beautiful) island empty. Emigration seemed to many the only way to escape from a country that its own residents could not feed. Everything was better than poverty and hunger suffered by vaderlandse soil. The population slonk of 7 or 8 million to a paltry 3 million. When Ireland was a member of the EEC in 1973 was still the poorest country in Western Europe.

    ben_ sagt:

    „… except from the money it gave to help to make Ireland the prosperous nation it is …“ is pretty funny. It’s like „expect from everythin the irish have besides green grass, potatos, wind and the gulf stream.“

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