Saturday, 14 June 2008

Derailed by Irish Lisbon Treaty vote

I have to admit that I was derailed by the Irish vote on the Treaty of Lisbon. I would have placed no bets on the outcome, but I had not expected such a clear rejection of the amending treaty. Being a fan of Ireland and the Irish, I surely wanted to see them as companions on the road to an improved European Union, but it was not for me to decide.

Ireland has its own constitutional requirements. If a referendum is deemed to be called for each time the European Union needs to update its treaties, who am I to argue that it is an exceedingly blunt instrument to handle complex questions?

We parted company amicably, they in adventurous search of new and uncharted territory, I stolidly continuing along the road to EU reform.

***

Nobody should ram an unwanted treaty, once rejected, down their throats. But sooner or later the focus will shift from referendum counts and causes to the future. For the Irish people and government a novel expedition commences: to define their collective aspirations with regard to Europe after opting out of treaty reform.

The first chances at the European level come next week, when the foreign ministers meet Monday and the heads of state or government a few days later. Does the Irish government know what to propose, or will it require more analysis of the reasons for rejection?

Anyway, it is heartening to know that Ireland is not going to obstruct progress for the EU member states willing and able to move ahead. It is important for the other EU countries, but it will make them more receptive to Ireland’s concerns.

***

Two thirds or 18 of the EU members have already completed the essential requirements for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Eight have yet to ratify the treaty in accordance with their constitutional requirements. Possibly Ireland will be joined by one or a few countries belonging to that group.

The circumstances surrounding the Lisbon Treaty have changed as a result of the Irish rejection. This means that the ratifying states have to take a new position on the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

While the ratifying member states should respect the outcome in Ireland, they are entitled to the same amount of respect for their own aspirations to bring an almost decade long reform cycle to a conclusion.

This means that the Lisbon Treaty, initially requiring ratification by all member states, has to be adjusted to the changed circumstances. The main requirement is that the treaty has to enter into force between the ratifying states. Additionally a number of technical adaptations are needed, without altering the substance of the treaty.

The shift from the present European Union to the new one may call for the re-establishment of the EU, leaving the relationship with the relative outsider(s) to be determined separately.

Clear signals from the EU foreign ministers and the heads of state or government should be forthcoming next week.

***

Yes, I was derailed by the outcome of the Irish referendum. Instead of the customary post on the following Article of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), I strayed. For an evening and a day I fell for the temptation to respond to comments and to read and to comment on blogs discussing the referendum in Ireland.

Formally, the Irish voters had derailed the Treaty of Lisbon for the whole European Union. In practice, it appears, they had only opted out of a process set to continue. Even in the worst case, the reform process needs recording, since the underlying aspirations are not going to disappear.

Therefore, the service on this blog will continue in a short while, in boring detail.


Ralf Grahn