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


  1. Well, I certainly enjoyed your comments and I think your two posts regarding the way forward for the Nations which have already signed the treaty, are excellent.

  2. Shame, Ralf! I was enjoying jousting with you. I was going to accuse you of promoting the aspirations of European leaders and Euroexperts as opposed to the aspirations of EU citizens - I'm sorry you won't be rising to the bait!

    Do keep up the good blogging, though.

  3. I understand how you feel. As soon as the official results of the referendum were announced I decided to go to sleep for two hours and didn't feel like saying anything anymore.

    I am also not angered at all, I do not even know whether I'm disappointed in the decision Ireland made. I think I rather feel sorry for Ireland and everyone who wanted to keep on working with Ireland as the Member State it is still.

    I wished they had realized in time what their vote on the Treaty would mean.

  4. Head of Legal,

    Read the fine print, Learned Friend.

    I did not forswear (occasional) continued lackeydoom to European leaders, Euroexperts, the Illuminati, Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission or any other real or imagined conspiration for or against humanity.

    I just had to acknowledge that I had missed a day's 'normal' posting.

    As to the substance of your unspoken accusation (not a reader of Kafka, are you?):

    I admit to plotting the (long term) establishment of a European Union based on representative democracy, scheming to uncover the lack of transparency in Council dealings, vocally opposing the deliberate non-publication of a readable Lisbon Treaty (until 16 April 2008)by same Council, endeavouring to confuse British and Irish subjects by the propagation of factual information on the re-introduction of the death penalty, corporate taxes and diverse myths linked to said 'dictatorial' EU powers, disparaging plebiscites (both mandatory and ad hoc) and countless other sins and omissions.

  5. European Union Law Blog,

    Thank you for your sympathy. Although some of the contents of the post had to do with the fallout from the Irish referendum, it was written in a lighter vein.

    As I said in the preceding comment, I missed a day's normal posting.

    I also had to reach a conclusion whether to continue plodding through an officially 'dead' treaty, to restructure future posts or to abandon the project.

    After reaching the conclusion that European integration did not end here, even that the majority of the member states could and should continue despite the changed circumstances, I decided to tell my readers.

    I share your feeling about at least a part of the Irish voters being unaware of the consequences of their ballot.

    I am no Freud, but I have wondered if some of the unspoken motives did not flow from the same feeling of omnipotence as 'Les Tricoteuses' of French revolutionary justice: the feeling of power over the high and mighty.

    Was it not one of the main ingredients of the French vote on the Constitutional Treaty: to send a strong signal of disapproval to president Jacques Chirac and his government (turning him and France into walking wounded in the EU for two years)?

    I think that what many felt was bullying from foreign minister Kouchner actually was only a statement of facts, from bitter French experience.

    So, in addition to being derailed from my customary duties, the (possibly) failed attempt to spite the European establishment and the member states and to derail the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, lay behind my choice of the word 'Derailed'.

    One of the problems with national debate on Europe is the introspective nature of large segments of the population in most member states, the failure to see beyond the personal, local or national.

    Sadly, this may have led to a case of 'Bite the nose to spite the face', with Ireland relatively speaking 'out in the cold' probably as an unexpected and unwanted consequence.


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