Monday, June 16, 2008


Where do we go from here?

"Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get."- George Bernard Shaw

As the fallout from last Friday's Lisbon Treaty rejection continues to rain down upon Brussels, our own Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin was today facing the music from cheesed-off EU ministers. Naturally enough he himself has claimed otherwise, commenting that he was afforded 'overwhelming solidarity' and that there had been no discussion of putting the Treaty to another referendum. I find that hard to believe myself but his remarks do not surprise me. It would seem that the EU and this government are closing ranks for the time being with Mr Martin stating it was "far too early" to seek a solution and making the point that there was "no quick fix" to the crisis. Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel echoed this view earlier today saying that it was time for "a little bit of thinking and analysis" on the situation.

"It would be risky to say we are going to bring the treaty back to life when we are facing a blockade" he added.

However it is not hard to see the discontent and anger bubbling under the surface and there have been a few revealing comments from ministers in the past 24 hours. Take for example this comment from Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb:

"The treaty is not dead. The EU is in constant crisis management - we go from one crisis to another and finally we find a solution."

Yes indeed you certainly do 'find solutions', be they democratic or otherwise.

While Mr Martin spins us the line that everything is hunky dory, insiders are painting a very different picture. BBC reporter Mark Mardell in his excellent blog on the events surrounding the Treaty, reveals that three general viewpoints are emerging:

"People are starting to back one of three options:

Ireland votes again;
Abandon Lisbon;
Move ahead without Ireland."

OK let's take a look at these options:

1. Ireland votes again

To me this is utterly unacceptable. We were told before the referendum that the Treaty had to be endorsed by ALL 27 EU states for it to be implemented. It was not endorsed by the Irish people. So then, where is the justification for another referendum? In 2001 the Nice Treaty was rejected but it was given to the public again because, we were told, the turnout for the first vote was too low. Well the turnout for the Lisbon Treaty was higher than both of the Nice Treaty referendums and so that argument is obviously null and void. I was pleased that Eamon Gilmore of the Labour Party, who backed a Yes vote for the Treaty, set out his position on this matter quite clearly. He said:

"The situation will clearly have to be reviewed by EU Leaders at their summit in Brussels next week. However, it is not clear what action, if any, the summit can take. There can certainly be no question of putting the same Treaty back to another referendum in Ireland."

Spot on. NO QUESTION of putting the same Treaty back to another referendum in Ireland. The EU are of course entitled to renegotiate another Treaty amongst themselves but it needs to be a proper renegotiation, and not one that is 95% the same as the document rejected by the French and Dutch but with a different title.

EU Treaty - more comebacks than Madonna

There has been talk today from Luxembourg's foreign minister that Ireland could be given "assurances about defence and abortion" with a view towards having a second referendum. Well hold it, I for one did not base my decision on the Treaty upon the issue of abortion! Plus the issue of the EU's military muscle was but one concern of mine. What about our other concerns? The ones pertaining to national sovereignty, for instance? People voted no for a variety of reasons and the only fair way to press on from here is to rule out the idea of a repeat referendum.

2. Abandon Lisbon

Obviously this would be the outcome I would prefer, particularly since this was supposed to be the outcome in the event of a rejection. In fairness, there are those within the EU who have acknowledged this was the case initially. Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra has been urging Nicolas Sarkozy not to put pressure on his country, and the other eight member states who have yet to endorse the Treaty, telling Czech daily newspaper Hospodarske Noviny:

"The Lisbon treaty may be unpassable in the Czech Senate."

It would seem to me then that the rules as drawn up originally oblige the EU to abandon Lisbon now following the rejection. In fact I put this very question to Dr Diana Panke, Lecturer of European Studies at University College Dublin, when I interviewed her a month ago. I asked her, "If such a rejection occurs in June, do you believe the Irish government and the EU should respect the democratic wishes of the electorate and let the Treaty lie?" She replied:

"The Treaty as it is now formulated will definitely not be to put to another referendum just as it is."

That view was backed up today by EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy who conceded that the treaty as it was intended cannot now come into force following the Irish rejection. So then confused yet? You're not the only one. Which brings us to idea number three...

3. Move ahead without Ireland

This would be an arrangement whereby the other 26 countries ratify the Treaty (through their parliaments and not via referendums of course) and would push ahead with their plans without Ireland. This would appear to be akin to outright intimidation on the EU's part. British Foreign Minister David Miliband has said that Ireland should not be bullied but as the BBC's Mr Mardell reports:

"some MEPs are in favour of this 'coalition of the willing' and there is a suspicion that this is the French and German fallback position if Ireland doesn't vote again. Mr Miliband is clearly against. He told me that Ireland must not be bulldozed, and that it was written in 'black and white' that the treaty must be backed by 27 countries."

The comments by Mr Miliband are welcome, the attitude of the French and German ministers definitely not. Interestingly however our own Charlie McCreevy today said it was possible that what he described as 'new arrangements' could be made which would be in the best interests of Ireland and the EU.

I am totally against any intimidation or bullying from Brussels towards this country, and the Irish ministers must not allow themselves to be backed into a corner. I'm not sure what 'moving ahead' without ourselves might involve. If, as Mr McCreevy suggests, it could prove a beneficial situation for ourselves and the EU then perhaps it's an option worth considering, although it flies in the face of everything the EU is meant to represent - a union of equals. However, if issues of sovereignty can be safeguarded in such a manner then it's an option we perhaps should not be so quick to dismiss.

It's all up in the air though, isn't it? Where do we go from here? Well there are views and theories coming in from all sides but here's what I think will happen. I may end up being very wrong but I see things turning out like as follows...

There will be a quiet period, or 'period of reflection' as the EU would term it, where dialogue continues behind the scenes but little is said on the surface. Meanwhile, the countries that have yet to ratify the Treaty press ahead with ratification through parliaments until 26 out of 27 states have ratified it. The Irish government will then float their kites and their scare stories about how Ireland is in danger of being 'left behind' by these events. Following such scaremongering, the Irish government will assure the people that they will do their utmost to work with the EU to try and prevent the country from being left behind. After all this spin, the Irish government will inform the people that they have negotiated a terrific package for Ireland and that it would be madness not to accept the proposals on offer (which I suspect will merely amount to more assurances on neutrality and taxation). A repeat referendum will then be put to the people and it will be endorsed by a narrow margin.

RIP Irish democracy.

We will see what happens but I can only view matters based on how I've seen the EU treat Irish democracy in the past, and based on their comments towards Irish democracy at present.

My position though is clear. NO to a repeat referendum, NO to the idea of our opinions being ignored, and NO to intimidation and scaremongering.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

© 2008 United Irelander.