Monday 30 June 2008

Lisbon Treaty: If conciliation fails

The striking thing about the interview with Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, as reported in my 28 June 2008 blog post ‘EU: Unable to make decisions’, was his conciliatory tone. The Irish should not be bullied. Failing ratification, negotiations are needed to solve the crisis for both Ireland and the European Union.

But there is always the risk of failure. Different alternatives need careful thought. Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Münchau has been looking at various scenarios in his articles, with the latest addition ‘The options for a Europe without a script’, published 29 June 2008 on

It is natural that political leaders are loath to discuss unpleasant truths as long as there is some hope of avoiding trouble, but it is necessary that free-thinking spirits offer the public realistic options.

According to Münchau we are not at breakdown point yet, but we have to consider the possibility that the Irish may not ratify the Lisbon Treaty in the end.

To continue with the Nice Treaty is out of the question, so Münchau supposes that the ratifiers find a way to enforce the Lisbon Treaty without some. He mentions the options of offering the non-ratifiers a chance to quit, various forms of intensified cooperation among integrationist countries and a regrouping under a new organisation.


If negotiations fail, Europe faces the stark choice between immobility and action by a narrower membership. Here I agree with Münchau.

But a more effective union would further lessen the democratic legitimacy and accountability of the European project and harden the popular resistance, if not coupled with profound democratic reform. It is time for the European leaders to face up to the democratic requirements of the 21st century.

Europe cannot preach to the world what it doesn’t practice itself.

Ralf Grahn


  1. This is to address the political situation as regards Lisbon, but there are other factors. The Euro is getting seriously stretched and the coming economic crisis could and should blow it apart. How will the EU maintain any credibility at all once the weakness of its economic foundations become more apparent?

  2. Tapestry,

    I read the blog post on financial turmoil and Euro doom.

    The economic governance of the Eurozone has structural weaknesses, as you point out.

    I question the contention that the Euro countries would have managed better on their own.

    The competitiveness of unreforming countries, which tend to be those with the worst public deficits, is shaky in times of soaring oil, gas, food and raw materials prices, although the Euro has cushioned much of the effects.

    But the article would seem to lead to the conclusion that more effective Eurozone governance is needed(?)

  3. "To continue with the Nice Treaty is out of the question"


  4. Does Open Europe suddenly support a Union based on the Nice Treaty? I thought you guy where hellbent on getting the UK out of the EU? Your organisation could start a pro-Nice campaign.

  5. Open Europe blog team,

    The text, as you see from the context, presents Münchau's article (before my own comments), so you have to ask him about his reasons.

    But I can offer you mine:

    Before the Nice Treaty was even signed, the European heads of state or government realised that continued treaty reform is necessary. See the Nice declaration, December 2000.

    The European governments agreed on the reasons, guiding principles and practical work in the Laeken declaration 2001.

    The European Convention, with a broad membership of national and European parliamentarians as well as government representatives, elaborated the draft Constitutional Treaty, clearly in response to the reform needs they saw.

    The EU governments mauled the draft a bit, but were in unanimous agreement on the resulting Constitutional Treaty in 2004.

    This treaty was approved by the national parliaments in two thirds of the member states.

    The Lisbon Treaty, somewhat weaker, was again agreed on unanimously by 27 governments and it has been approved by 19 national parliaments to date (often with crushing pro votes).

    I think that a reasonable person would be ready to admit the need for reform.

    The quantity of European Community legislation is not, in my view, conclusive evidence of the quality of EU decision-making needed to face the challenges for Europe.

  6. RZ,

    I have to admit that Open Europe's barrage of vituperative comment on the European Union tends to overshadow its professed aim at European reform.

    Perhaps they could work a bit more on a positive programme, as a true think-tank with a decreased incidence of crude distortions.

  7. Euro stability - not what Morgan Stanley are advising their clients.

  8. German surplus is financing Spanish Greek and Italian deficits. It cannot do so indefinitely. The imbalances are worsening, and probably about to accelerate under the pressure of property price declines, and falling growth rates.

  9. @tapestry: Your economic analysis hits many important points. But don't rely on Morgan Stanley. They want to pressure the ECB to lower the rates, because lower rates are always good for financial companies.

  10. ...and bankrupt countries are bad for financial companies, rz, - not to mention their citizens.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.