Sunday 15 June 2008

Nine lives of Lisbon Treaty

Forget it. The EU Treaty of Lisbon is not a cat-o’-nine-tails to whip the citizens of the European Union into submission. The Lisbon Treaty, or in a wider sense the aim of treaty reform, bears more resemblance to a cat with nine lives.

If the European leaders unanimously and national parliamentarians in the ratifying member states overwhelmingly have supported various versions of the amending treaties, might they not have good cause? Would it go totally astray to suspect a hint of the ‘vision thing’?

Thinking about it, are not the national leaders and parliamentarians the main victims of a more powerful European Union?

Are they not the ones with the most to lose – much more than their populations – if their cosy satrapies are emasculated by control and command from Brussels?

Would they ‘sign away’ their prerogatives, if it was merely an act of self-flagellation?

Why on earth would politicians, dependent on popular votes, alienate their electorates?


Would it be amiss if citizens in Europe made the effort to think about the challenges of our globalising world and then tried to reach some answers on how to meet them?

Would people then understand the efforts of European politicians to join forces through the European Union and their (timid) attempts to improve the workings of our shared institutions?

Already twice an amending treaty has reached ratification by 18 member states, but thrice plebiscites during the last leg of treaty reform have contemptuously rejected the offered cure.

But if there really is a need to reform the EU institutions?

Is the chasm between the ‘elites’ and the citizens really the fault of the elected politicians?

Is the wall of popular distrust and incomprehension too thick to penetrate by any means humanely possible?

Is the temptation to ‘Bite the nose to spite the face’ too great to be resisted, even if people end up flogging their own best interests?


I have to admit that I feel a tinge of respect, even admiration, when I see Nicolas Sarkozy running for the presidency and promising to bring about EU reform, despite the recent rejection by French voters of the Constitutional Treaty.

Or when chancellor Angela Merkel crafts a deal with the rest of the EU governments to rescue the essential reforms, including fundamental principles enhancing openness, transparency and citizens’ rights, well knowing that the only option is to deal behind closed doors to achieve (a modicum of) its opposite in the long run.

Or when France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner is accused of bullying the Irish voters by stating that they will bear the consequences of their possible rejection, when he was plainly stating a fact, based on the unpalatable experience of president Jacques Chirac and France having become lame ducks within the European Union for two years as a result of the French ‘non’.

Would they – and their fellow leaders – take the abuse out of sheer masochistic pleasure, if they did not believe that they were doing the right thing?


If people show both disrespect and distrust to their elected leaders, do all the faults lie with the latter?


If I understand correctly, the Irish voters did not bury the Lisbon Treaty. They resurrected it, whipping their own leadership and marginalising their country.

If the voters in Ireland and elsewhere imagine that the leaders of France and Germany lack spunk, they should read the joint statement issued Friday evening on the outcome of the referendum. Chancellor Merkel and president Sarkozy met the result with respect and regret, but they expected that the remaining states proceed with ratification.

The leaders were convinced that the Treaty of Lisbon is necessary to make the European Union more democratic and effective.

Treaty reform has nine lives, because the needs are there. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Ralf Grahn


Déclaration franco-allemende suite au résultat du référendum irlandais (13-06-08 à 18 :28)

Gemeinsame Presseerklärung von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und dem französischen Staatspräsidenten Nicolas Sarkozy zum Ausgang des irischen Referendums über den Vertrag von Lissabon vom 12. Juni 2008 (13.06.2008)


  1. It is true Ralf, there needs to be a unification of the European nations relevent to the globalised world we live in. We need statesmen and women with vision, a strong document of intent, and concerned citizens like yourself involved in the process.
    Ireland may not be the only country to abandon the present Treaty as Gordon Brown is under pressure from the people of England.
    I appreciate your hard work and passion for this project and am glad you will be continuing the blog!

  2. Caoimhin,

    My post grew from growing dissatisfaction with the onesided onslaught on elected leaders. They have taken more [manure] than they deserve.

    I admit that Gordon Brown is under pressure in the UK, but he has already born the brunt of outrage, and the Lisbon Treaty is on its last lap.

    The Czech Republic is a more difficult case, and Sweden, always in slow motion, will only follow if others lead.

  3. Caoimhin,

    I should have read your link before answering. The information about Gordon Brown is contradictory.

    I had read accounts given by president Sarkozy, and they seemed clear enough.

    Now the 'deep throats' spinning out of Downing Street 10 want us to believe that Brown is at least contemplating pulling the plug on the Lisbon Treaty.

    Rejection by the UK would, of course be a big thing, taking into account population size, economy, foreign policy (UN Security Council) and military capablities.

    We will have to wait for confirmation of British intentions and the conclusions the other EU states draw, if Britain scraps ratification.

  4. Ralf, previously it seems that Brown had promised Sarkozy to follow through on the ratification process. But Brown is in a weak position politically and may sacrifice the Treaty for his own stability and look for a round of applause from the Irish while he's at it.
    Strange things happen in politics!
    I too thought that the excrement thrown at the electorate from both sides of the Treaty debate was shameful. There were too many real issues and positions that would have made much better reading.
    Maybe this is now an opportunity to get improvements made?

  5. On June 18th the UK is expected to vote on the Treaty, so we'll get an answer to that question soon. I do not think they'll stop, and I think people are currently misinterpreting Brown's words.

    Also Cyprus just said they'll ratify on July 3rd.

    I think we need to worry most about the Czech Republic.

  6. Caoimhin,

    The anti-EU crowd in Britain would be jubilant if Gordon Brown caved in, but I fear that he would lose at least as much respect as he gained applause (included in Ireland).

    Why did I see the substance of the Lisbon Treaty as the only way forward for the rest?

    The EU leaders are tired of tinkering with the treaties. They want to make minimal changes, and the current ratification round covers about 98 per cent of the text needing ratification.

    Actually, I think that the possibilites for future reform improve, if this round gets a (relatively) happy end.

    European Union Law Blog,

    I suppose that we have to wait and see, because right now we have contradictory messages.

    The Czech Republic is an unpredictable case.


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