Ireland puts the EU show back on the road

By Paul Taylor
October 3, 2009

biffoThe EU show is back on the road. Sixteen months after Irish voters brought the European Union’s tortured process of institutional reform to a juddering halt by voting “No” to the Lisbon treaty, the same electorate has turned out in larger numbers to say “Yes” by a two-thirds majority.

This is an immense relief for the EU’s leadership. After three lost referendums in France, the Netherlands and Ireland, and a record low turnout in this year’s European Parliament elections, the democratic legitimacy of the European integration process was increasingly open to question. The Irish vote will not completely silence those doubts. Opponents are already accusing the EU of have bullied the Irish into voting again on the same text, and of blackmailing them with economic disaster if they did not vote the right way this time.

Try this for size from a British Euro-sceptic, Lorraine Mullally of the Open Europe think-tank:

This is a sad day for democracy in Europe.  The Lisbon Treaty transfers huge new powers to the EU and away from ordinary people and national parliaments.  EU elites will be popping the champagne and slapping each other on the back for managing to bully Ireland in to reversing its first verdict on this undemocratic Treaty. But most ordinary people around Europe will not welcome this news, as they were never given a chance to have their say on the Treaty.  We should all be deeply worried about the way in which EU leaders have gone about forcing this Treaty on us.  Polls show that the majority of people across Europe want to be consulted on major transfers of power such as this – but politicians in Brussels aren’t interested in what the people want.

The fact that the turnout in Ireland was higher, and the majority larger than in the first referendum may blunt such arguments. But EU leaders will clearly learn one key lesson from the Irish precedent: the days of grand treaties on ever closer European union are over. With unanimous ratification by 27 member states required, the probability of at least one country rejecting change is just too high.

For better or worse, the Lisbon treaty will be Europe’s rulebook for a generation. I reckon there won’t be another major overhaul of EU institutions for 20 years. Any further integration will take the form either of closer cooperation among groups of like-minded countries on issues such as defence, justice or taxation, or perhaps of limited, specialised treaties on policy areas such as energy and climate change.

The Lisbon treaty, and its predecessor, the defunct EU constitution, were never the federalist blueprints that their opponents claimed. But Lisbon does offer he prospect of somewhat more efficient leadership and decision-making in an enlarged Union. More decisions will be taken by majority vote instead of unanimity, notably on justice and home affairs. The directly elected European Parliament will have power over more legislation. And national parliaments will have a better chance to scrutinise, and send back, EU legislation.

A new long-term president of the European Council of EU leaders and a foreign policy chief at the head of a 5,000-strong diplomatic service and an 8-billion-euro budget will give Europe a higher profile on the international stage. But whether the Europeans become bigger global players hinges largely on their political will to think and act strategically, and to risk involvement in trouble spots and crises. To judge from their disjointed efforts in Afghanistan, that is still a tall order.

Europe’s effectiveness will also depend on the personalities chosen to fill the big jobs. These appointments are traditionally stitched up in backroom deals between EU leaders in compromises between large and small states, northern and southern (and now also eastern) Europe, and between left and right. Of course Europe needs political balance. But it also needs strong, inspiring leadership.

If the first president of the European Council is a figure of international stature, with charisma and a successful track record in government, he or she will give the EU a bigger place in the emerging new world order. Ditto for the foreign policy chief. It is depressing to hear some officials say their prime ministers want weak personalities who won’t overshadow them.

The next few weeks until the EU’s October 29-30 summit will be dominated by speculation about who will get which job. When you hear the names of Tony Blair, Jan-Peter Balkenende, Paavo Lipponen, Bernard Kouchner, Carl Bildt, Olli Rehn, Michel Barnier or Hubert Vedrine, ask yourself one question: who will do the best job for Europe, giving the EU the most credible profile around the world and with its own citizens.


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It is an impossibility not to wish the a fair breeze and a moderate sea.

My main concern about the Lisbon Treaty is it’s desire to “streamline” decision making in the recently enlarged EU. This will concentrate power in fewer hand. I can’t see what’s wrong, especially in light of recent economic turmoil, of not being in a screaming great rush to pursue the interests of fewer people.
My biggest concern is that Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister who jumped ship having navigated the UK economy to the edge of calamity, will be in the running for the job of EU President, and might even get it.
I will be lobbying my European member of parliament to make sure my concerns about Tony Blair are on the radar. The “presidential” and anti-democratic style he employed in the UK with his deregulation of the banking industry and bending-over-backwards accommodation of lobby groups I believe greatly contributed to many of the problems existing in the world today, while he ignored the democratic Westminster system which could and should have provided checks and balances.
If he, and/or his kind get control in Europe you can be sure they will also be anti-democratic, ruling for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

I wonder if Peter H is serious in believing the EU cares what members of the UK public think, or whether it is just gallows humour.

Do they make T-shirts big enough to put “Not my president, I didn’t get a vote” on?

Posted by Roger | Report as abusive

Does this mean that in Eighteen months time there will be another Vote in Ireland in case they want to say “No” again.
It appears that one of the smallest countries in Europe now controls it all, Something Hitler tried and failed to do, however, Belgium has done it with Europe’s blessing!

Posted by Clive | Report as abusive

The Irish people did not approve the Lisbon Treaty.

Irish Politicians have been falsifying the voting system for years since they introduced opinions into law in 1996. Opinions being the best way to hide details / evidence of any form of crime.

If Government hide the details / evidence of crime they violate Article 7 Of The Declaration Of Human Rights and deny people protection by law.

The Irish People are sub human in Ireland and are no longer recognised by Irish Courts.

Get an Army that works, Get a Police Force that works, Get a Court System that works and all the truth will come flooding out.

The chances of exposing this treason Zero.

Posted by Chris Butler | Report as abusive

I have been watching the state of play in the USA regarding jobs and unemployment levels from State to State, which is what seems to be of most concern to Euro-Nationals. There are lessons to be learned, and one is that even though the United States of America all speak English the fact is that unemployment percentage varies hugely from State to State and another is that Federal cash support between States also varies hugely. The level playing field viewed by the less-than-average average Euro-National is about as far away as Mars. The EU is a hopeless case unless one happens to be part of the Elite. Does anybody wish to correct me if I am wrong?

Posted by Jimmer XXX | Report as abusive

Here’s my prediction for twenty years’ time: the UK will no longer be a member of the EU. The EU will (still) be mired in debt, corruption, high unemployment and social unrest, reviled by all except its bloated unelected millionaire apparatchiks as a miserable, dismal failure. Some countries in the EU will be on the verge of revolution, whether fomented by the extreme left or the extreme right.

The UK on the other hand, will a beacon of free world trade, a model of sustainable prosperity and an offshore haven whose biggest problem will be keeping out the millions of economic refugees from the EU.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

It would seem Reuters blocked my previous observation on this matter – why? What is their worry? Again I say all of you go and read the information at stopcpdotcom and prepare to be worried – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, trust me…..

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

What a stupid article! The EU does not need any treaties at all after Lisbon; it can do what it pleases, without any ‘by your leave’.

Posted by john ross | Report as abusive

As far as I see, its high time the British come out of the illusionary world they live in and take a leaf out of Ireland’s book. What is the size of European coutries compared to the powers of tomorrow US, China, India, Brazil. They wont even exist on International Platform without effective integration. Britain is not a grand colonial power and by not acknowledging this, they only are to loose more and more and by the time realisation dawns upon the British it will be too late. And if Britain wants to be Switzerland and same is true for ohter European countries, they must realise even that wont be possible in 20 years from now.

We all are aware of the resource crunch that the world will face in few decades from now. China alone is set to consume 70% of the natural resources produced today and in India also consumption will only rise. In such a competitive world how the weaker European countries will be able to protect their interests is anyone’s guess. Do they expect US to feed them? It’s trus even the Americans are viewing Europe as a gone case. It is evident everywhere from snubbing of dear Brit President to prospect of France and Britain loosing their seats at IMF.

The only beacon of hope for Europe including Britain is a Greater European Nation with centralised power that can protect it’s interest in the new world dominated by Asian Giants or the history will see it’s course reversed by exploitation of Europe by the powers of tomorrow. Hope the Europeans act sanely in their best interests and British stop playing fool at the hands of their national leaders who want to preserve who love power in their own habds more than the greater interest of ordinary people. And those who dont realise this be better forced into it before it is too late as it is the only hope for Europe’s future and europeans should thank visionaries as De Gualle who foresaw the dynamics in the future world and laid the foundation of a Great European nation that could assert itself for it’s own interests.

Dear Asterix117, on what pretty planet do you reside? Oh and for your further information, the British do NOT have a president but a Prime Minister – just to put the record straight of course. As far as your vision of Europe – no-one will ever convince the British people of this – I think the majority of people have expressed their lack of support for this grandiose idea of a super-state. Kindly explain why any country should give up control of its own laws to a totally UNELECTED set of beings in another country who will not listen to individual requirements of so-called member states? I think we had a world war or two to prevent this situation, or maybe you weren’t born then! Ask someone who knows about these things. Love Europe, but forever to blazes with the EU!

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

I am from the Netherlands. And I know that Balkenende would be a very wrong choice to become President of the European Council.
In the Netherlands he has been absent in each and every crisis. Only when the opposition forces him to an opinion, he comes up with some kind of statement. He gives the impression of someone suffering from a clinical depression.
Beside this, he is a child! When he first met Bush jr., the former president of the USA, he behaved like a small boy that got a compliment of a headmaster. When he was patted on his shoulder by mister president, he was out of his wits from joy. In the Netherlands we made jokes about this, but we were extremely embarrassed. To please this Bush, he dragged us in an illegal war with Iraq. When the new coalition for his present government was formed, he demanded, that there would be no interrogation about this war. So we, the people, are not allowed to know what really let to this war.
A dutch soldier in Iraq fired his gun in the air during a riot. At that time an Iraqi male fell to the ground, apparently wounded or death, nobody knows. The same day an Iraqi male was buried. Maybe the same person, maybe another. The dutch soldier was arrested for murder by the dutch prosecutors office. Then there were endless trials against this soldier. In the end, each and every judge did acquit him from every charge and the dutch authorities had to pay him a great lot of money.
And now the big question. The Netherlands were in war with Iraq. During that war a soldier was attacked in the back by the dutch prosecutors office. Were was prime-minister Balkenende when this happened? This is of course a rhetorical question. He was were he is always when we need him: hiding in his tower, playing Harry Potter.
And now a question for the readers of this. And this question is NOT rhetorical.

Do you want such a person to be the leader of the European Union? Do you want Balkenende as your “president”?

I do not know if Blair would be a very good choice. But I have seen enough from Blair, that he would not abandon his own soldiers during a war that he himself choose for them. If you lead your soldiers into a war, you have to stand behind them, support them. As he once said:
“Backbone, not back down”.

Or in other words:
“Backbone, not back down, is what the European Union needs.”

There is no place in European government for a wimp and traitor like Balkenende. If his own soldiers can not rely on him, can we?

With unemployment at records highs in Ireland, over half a million unemployed and the economy utterly destroyed – where are all the jobs and help to our citizens that were promised?
Well congrats to all of you that voted yes, you now reap the whirlwind of what you created. Watch as our country slowly but surely is totally decimated by the same people that told you to vote yes, as Europe looks on laughing…

Posted by Byrninho | Report as abusive