Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Clingendael: Lisbon Treaty options

Rob Boudewijn and Janis A. Emmanouilidis ask

How to proceed after the Irish “No”

in Clingendael Commentary 5 (9 July 2008). The two page analysis can be accessed at the web page of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’:

The researchers Boudewijn and Emmanouilidis present four options, of which they dismiss the first three:

1) A core group, leaving Ireland outside a new union.

2) Ireland’s voluntary withdrawal from the European Union.

3) Abandoning the Lisbon Treaty and negotiating a new one.

Their fourth and final option, deemed to be the most attractive and realistic one, is for the member states to continue the ratification procedure. Ireland would arrange a repeat referendum in early 2009.

The writers find it highly likely that Ireland will be the only member state to have rejected the Lisbon Treaty. Then 26 member states, representing 99 per cent of the EU’s population would have every moral right to ask the Irish to reconsider.

Ireland might be granted some concessions in return, for example in the field of taxes, family law and defence.


A few comments on the Clingendael Commentary:

The fourth option with continued ratification looks attractive – until the second Irish referendum.

The repeated plebiscite would have to be won by the ‘yes’ side to make any difference. Otherwise it is just a humiliation more for those who have invested in the treaty reform process.

None of the reasons for the ‘no’ vote was pro-European, so why should the Irish voters suddenly care about the rest of Europe the second time around?

Having discredited their own political leadership, why should they rehabilitate them?

Wouldn’t asking the Irish the same question again prompt new and more bloody-minded resistance?

Would the concessions mentioned by Boudewijn and Emmanouilidis change anything in practice or in the perception of Irish electors?

The Lisbon Treaty already contains the legal guarantees mentioned, which means that Irish particularities on (company) tax, abortion and neutrality are no real issues. A declaration makes them no more real, but neither is it a real concession.

Opening up the Lisbon Treaty would, on the other hand, lead to new ratifications and waste of time. The margins are slim.


The option offered by Boudewijn and Emmanouilidis seems to build on the most human of grounds: Miracles can always happen, and if they do, nobody has to draw real conclusions.

But is the solution good after the second Irish referendum?

Ralf Grahn