Thursday 31 July 2008

Lisbon Treaty ratification count 24 states and 471 million

Both Houses of Parliament in Italy (population 59.1 million) have now unanimously approved the EU Treaty of Lisbon. This means that the parliamentary ratification stage is concluded in 24 member states, which account for 471.4 million Europeans (about 95 per cent of the total EU population of 495.1 million).

The group of slow, undecided or negative member states has now shrunk to three out of 27, with the following population numbers (millions):

The Czech Republic 10.3

Sweden 9.1


Ireland 4.3

Ralf Grahn


  1. Not quite right Ralf. The German President has refused to sign the instrunent of ratification pending the outcome of the two cases before the Constitutional Court. But you are, of course, right in the expectation that 26 Member States will ultimately have no major difficulty in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty.

    This may wake up the Irish electorate, and the country's benighted political class and elites, to the reality of Ireland's isolated position. It has not yet happened. Indeed, a leading, if elderly, female member of the main governing party, Fianna Fail, has referred to speculation on a second referendum as "foolish talk".

    We will see who is talking nosnsense in due course.

  2. Seachtu,

    This has been discussed off and on. I have counted and reported on the parliamentary ratification stage, parliamentary ratification or words to that effect, since this is the politically significant decision in a parliamentary democracy.

    But I am ready to repeat that depositing the ratification instrument is the final deed (often preceded by presidential or royal signature).

    The number of formally concluded procedures lags considerably behind parliamentary approvals.


  4. Bekessy,

    There are, as you indicate, different political dynamics at play.

    The number of non-ratifying EU member states has been steadily decreasing, although in the remaining Czech Republic and in Sweden the parliaments are going to vote only later in the autumn.

    If you have followed the discussions on this blog, you may have noticed my feeling that asking the Irish electorate the same question again would probably stiffen resistance against the Lisbon Treaty, confirmed by the opinion poll you refer to.

    Put together, these developments seem to underline what Seachtu called 'the reality of Ireland's isolated position' in his comment above.

    What Seachtu called 'the country's benighted political class and elites' one could describe as an ungovernable country in respect to EU treaty change.

    The Irish government and the main parliamentary parties can temporise only for a while.

    Sooner or later, it seems to me, they will have to face certain hard choices, with the pro-European self-image of the Irish and the actual voting behaviour (and reasons) neatly coming to a head.

    Is Ireland the next Greenland or something else?

  5. Ralf. Do not misread my comment. I have great respect for the wisdom of the Irish electorate and the country is as governable or as ungovernable as any other functioning democracy. But criticism of the ruling elites (political, administrative and media) is totally justified as they have failed to explain the importance of the EU to the country and its position within it. Indeed, they have often used the EU as a whipping boy for their own failures.

    Administrative delays in depositing an instrument of ratification is one thing. For a head of state to refuse to sign it because of a legal challenge is another.

  6. To Seachtu:
    When (and if) Ireland will awaken what will happen, in your opinion? Another referendum, withdrawal or still seeking a "better deal"?

    I've read in European Voice and Euractiv that Mr. Cowen will probably ask to keep the "one commissioner per member state" rule
    and propose a second referendum on that basis.

  7. Igor. If only life was that simple. The judgement of the Irish electorate is so unequivocal (high turn-out, clear majority) that simple solutions will not work. There needs to be a solution, as after Maastricht in the case of Denmark, redefining Ireland's relationship with Europe.

    The issue of the number of Commissioners could be part of the solution, not because other MS wish to do Ireland any favours but because they know that the solution in the Lisbon Treaty is unworkable. (One can imagine a small MS without a Commissioner, not one of the Big Six, including Italy).

    As De Valera, the most illustrious of Ireland's Prime Ministers put it, "the people have the right to be wrong".

  8. Again, there must be a separation as to why the "no" vote prevailed and the major reason why those that voted "no" did so...FROM the debate on the perception of democratic deficit!!!

    PLEASE take a look at the Commission's survey after the Irish vote, cited in a July 10 Irish Times article.

    The reason why those that voted "no" did so had nothing to do with number of Commissioners or anything else - but 22% of the "no" voters voted that way because of lack of knowledge about the Treaty.

    It seems that, if we read more, that the "no" side presented a better message than the "yes" side.
    So, the idea that the "no" vote had something to do with the Treaty itself and the Union is not accurate when one looks at the Commission's post referendum survey.
    Given what is written in Article 4 about national identities - the second reason for voting "no" - loss of national identity - means that there was a lack of accurate information about the Treaty.

    It is a waste of time to banter on about numbers of Commissioners and taxes, the Union, and the like, after looking at the actual data on the "no" vote!

  9. When I checked the Wikipedia Lisbon Treaty page earlier today, 13 of the 24 states had deposited the ratification instrument, leaving 11 with one or two formalities to comply with.

  10. It is hardly surprising that the electorate did not understand the Lisbon Treaty which is incomprehensible to anyone other than those versed in the functioning of the EU. This is why ratification should have been decided by parliament and never put to the electorate in the first place.

    But we are where we are. Crying over spilt milk, or rather the monumental ineptitude of the Irish government, will not help. What is needed is a 'new EU deal' for Ireland as the electorate is demonstrably unhappy with the present one.

    This was done in the case of Denmark. There appears to be no insurmountable reason why it should not be done in the case of Ireland. The process of better explanation can proceed in tandem with this approach.

  11. ...yes...and 250 pages...designed to amend the previous Treaties back to many subject areas.

    It is easy to find something that one objects to. A referendum means that there will be pros and cons on any and all subject areas in a treaty.

  12. "It is hardly surprising that the electorate did not understand the Lisbon Treaty which is incomprehensible to anyone other than those versed in the functioning of the EU. This is why ratification should have been decided by parliament and never put to the electorate in the first place."

    Not all MPs would see through the new treaty either.

    Anyway, I cannot agree with disqualification of referendum as a way to approve the treaty. It is the politicians who should explain all the advantages and disadvantages of proposed solutions. There is even no need to try to be impartial, since both proponents and opponents of LT will be able to comment on each other's arguments. One does not have to be skilled lawyer to understand changes in Council voting rules, in composition of Commission etc.

    Referendal approval of new rules could be a step in diminishing the feeling of alienation of the EU project.

  13. The reduction of the Commission was one of the key innovations of the Treaty. Giving up to it, make the treaty pretty pointless. A parallel with the Danish opt out is misgiven, because Denmark got an opt out in the defence field (among others), it didn't blocked the ESDP. We're not actually talking about an opt out here, but something closer to the Luxembourg compromise.

    At this point, it would be better to denounce Rome and Maastricht and start a new union.

  14. Seachtu,

    To return to governable and ungovernable. One needs only to compare the 24 ratifying member states with Ireland. The difference is obvious.

    ESLaPorte and Igor present the dilemma. It is hard to find a Danish solution for Ireland. Denmark was able to pinpoint four areas to opt out from, without blocking the rest of Europe, but the Irish electorate has expressed nothing of the kind.

    Soothing declarations will hardly reverse the stiffening resistance against being asked again.

    The European leaders may be ready to backtrack on the size of the Commission, but Igor is right in pointing out that this was one of the key innovations of the Lisbon Treaty, and my guess is that the Irish voters would still remain unimpressed.

    Separate institutions for Ireland (Commission, European Parliament) are impossible.

    The Irish vote was inward-looking, and the partial unraveling of the party coalition behind the Lisbon Treaty continues this trend.

    With or without a second (lost) referendum, Ireland seems to be drifting away from the rest of Europe.

    In the end, I guess that the Irish government is not prepared to block the rest of the EU member states (if there are 26 ratifications), which leads to the question what the Irish separate relation will look like.

    Since picking up the pieces seems to become a lengthy exercise, it looks probable that the European elections in June 2009 will take place according to the Nice Treaty and that the following Commission will be appointed according to the same, in other words with less need to take the election results into account with regard to the President and with the 'guillotine' hanging over the number of Commission members.

  15. Bekessy,

    In my view there is a profound conflict between the base, a traditional international treaty aggravated by the requirement of unanimity, and the use of national referenda to approve or block the negotiated document for the rest of Europe.

    There is nothing democratic about the effects for the rest of the union, although a national referendum can be seen as legitimate for the electorate in question.

    A pan-European referendum on a real democratic Constitution would be another matter, leaving the unwilling electorates outside the new union.

    Interestingly, the Irish campaigns against the Lisbon Treaty were purely nationalistic in content.

    Only afterwards has Libertas presented the result as a blow for European level democracy.

    Incidentally, the voting rules of concern in the Irish referendum campaign did not change, but that did little to inhibit the No campaigners.

    The interesting question now seems to become: How profound will 'pro-European' Ireland's opt-out of Europe be?

    Although the Lisbon Treaty augurs an intergovernmental EU, far from a functioning democracy, it is fascinating to observe how the contradictory political forces will be accommodated.

  16. Grahnlaw wrote:

    "As of today more than four fifths (85 per cent) of the member states, representing more than four fifths (83 per cent) of the total EU population, have already concluded the parliamentary ratification of the Lisbon Treaty".

    From The European Foundation

    "A poll on the web site of Die Welt offered readers four choices about the EU: “it is wonderful”; “it has advantages and disadvantages”; “it is pretty bad”; “I wish Germany would leave”. The highest score was for “I wish Germany would leave” – 51 per cent. Nineteen per cent said the EU was pretty bad and only 27 per cent said it had advantages and disadvantages. (Three per cent said it was wonderful.)"

    Clearly, (like the UK) the German Parliament isn't "representing their populations" at all!

    As true democrats keep pointing out, it doesn't matter how many parliaments ratify the treaty, without the approval of the people of Europe themselves, it's meaningless.

  17. Seachtu,

    I would say that refusing presidential signature until a judicial decision is one thing, a president's refusal to accept parliamentary approval another.

    The reasoning of the German Constitutional Court will merit as much attention as the deeds of Kaczynski and Klaus apprehension.

  18. Jo,

    'That of secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, ...'.

    The powers are derived from the people. This means that the elected representatives use their discretion to act as wisely as they can for the people.

    I am hardly happy about each and every decision made by 'my' representatives, but I don't have to dwell too long upon the prospect of being governed by opinion polls to acknowledge the relative merits of representative democracy.

  19. Wrong.

    Germany 80 millions. Not ratified.

    In a survey this week 51% of Germans say they wish to leave the EU.

    Only the Spanish think the EU has improved their lives in the larger countries.

    Even Poland is getting close to majority euroscepticism.

    That's why the EU is desperate to close the door on the Lisbon Treaty before all the wheels fall off. The denial of democracy by the EU would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

    Democracy will win in the end of the day, as government without consent is unworkable.

    EU-lovers are living in fantasy land, and need to be shaken from their dreams. LIsbon is over. The EU is over....

  20. Yeah and the EEC was an impossible. And the Market.
    And the euro.

    The obituary of the EU has been written far too many time to be credible.

  21. I think I must be a bit thick. (don't answer that).
    Was it not the European Commission's own rules that stated that the Lisbon Treaty has to be accepted by every country or it would be abandoned. So one country refused to accept it, end of story.
    What do the elite in Brussels not understand about the word NO

    Of course we all realize, that if we do not agree with the EU Commission they just alter the rules

    Hans-Gert Pottering, President of the EU Parliament openly admitted that the behaviour of Euro-sceptic MPs was within the rules and he was not asking to change them. No, he simply wanted permission to disregard them.
    Permission was granted, by 20 votes committee votes to 3.
    (European democracy in action again)

  22. "The powers are derived from the people. This means that the elected representatives use their discretion to act as wisely as they can for the people"

    And that refers also to Kaczynski's (in)action.

  23. Replyimg to Ray, England. The Commission is not party to the Lisbon Treaty, the Member States are. The requirement for unanimous ratification is in Article 357.

    I find myself agreeing with many of the comments, even where they are contradictory. The explanation for this paradox lies in the fact that the "Constitution" was oversold and the proponents of its version lite, the Lisbon Treaty, find it impossible to recover from this error. (Monumental ineptitude is not confined solely to Irish government).

    The other Member States are not refusing to recognise that the Lisbon Treaty has to be ratified by all Member States. They are trying to get to a position where only Ireland will be the odd man out.

    If Ireland is unable or unwilling to ratify, the Union will face an unprecedented situation. But we are not there yet.

    It is true that when France says no, everybody has to reflect. When a small Member States says no, it has to reflect. Not very fair but that is the ralpolitik of the matter.

    Part of the solution for Irealnd could be an opt-out from the "defence" elements of the TEU. Fears about conscription to a non-existent European army played a role in the success of the no side. This fear has a long historical background. Conscription never applied in Ireland, even during the First World War when the Republic of Ireland was still part of the UK. Nor did it apply to Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, during the Second World War.

  24. Ray, England,

    There seems to be a crucial misconception on your part. The previous and current treaties, as well as the signed Lisbon Treaty, are intergovernmental agreements, negotiated and signed by the member states' governments.

    Ergo, the active elites you mention are national, located in Madrid, Rome, the Hague, Stockholm, London, Dublin and the other national capitals.

    The Commission ('Brussels elite') is more or less on the sidelines, although the Brussels based Council secretariat - a creature of the member states - had an important role coordinating the technical work within the intergovernmental conference.

    The unanimity rule for agreement on and ratification of treaty amendments is a legacy of the Rome Treaties between six participating states more than 50 years ago, but it has become increasingly absurd in a union with 27 member states.

    Sooner or later the unanimity rule must go, or the EU atrophy.

    The Lisbon Treaty is going to be an interesting milestone.

  25. Bekessy,

    Kaczynski's wrecking company may be a hero for you, but he actively tries to undermine Poland's international standing, its government and both chambers of its parliament.

  26. Seachtu,

    You are right in that contradictory points of view can be at least valuable.

    Conscription being on the wane anyhow, what you write about fear of conscription to a non-existent European army is a real pearl. I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

    When we add that the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states shall not be prejudiced, the imaginary problem is even further deacreased.

    But perhaps empty threats have to be countered by empty formulas.

  27. By next year the EU will be so unpopular that clear majorities in most of its member countries will want to leave.

  28. Jo and Tapestry,

    You kindly mention various exact proportions of Germans purportedly fed up with the European Union (and, I imagine, auguring the swift and inglorious end of the EU).

    Could you be a little more exact in indicating your sources, their realiability, validity and relevance, please?

  29. My source for predicting the future trend in popular opinion is my own brain, located approximately between my ears, which are a few inches behind my eyes, which are looking at this screen.....

  30. "Kaczynski's wrecking company may be a hero for you, but he actively tries to undermine Poland's international standing, its government and both chambers of its parliament."

    This is beside the point here. You said that it was perfectly all right for democratically elected organs to use their discretion. I would only indicate, that this is true with regard to e.g. UK Parliament but to L. Kaczynski as well.

  31. Bekessy,

    I understood your point. I just wanted to offer some additional food for thought:

    You found an example, fairly isolated and extreme, both in a Polish and a European setting.

    Presidential signature is normally a foregone conclusion according to written Constitutions or constitutional practice. If the Polish constitutional system does not regulate the matter satsifactorily, this is a structural problem with the potential to cause recurring problems.

  32. Ralf. Whether you laugh or whether you cry is neither here nor there. The people are sovereign even when it is a Polish plumber inspiring fear, not conscription.

    Those contributing to this blog who point out that the EU is undergoing a serious crisis of confidence, not confined to Ireland, are right.

    The 'elites', for want of a better word, must begin to realise that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  33. Seachtu,

    You are quite right, it does not change anything in the general course of things if I become exasperated with the detractors of my friend, the Polish plumber or with the Service (Bolkestein) directive or any other figment of popular imagination, but it has had certain implications for my views on the suitability of national referenda as a means to decide on the fate of EU treaties.

    The people may be sovereign, but the last days of Socrates one of the results of direct democracy in action.

  34. The elites (fancy buzzword, isn't it? people get stuffed hearing about masonic or commie plots) are particularly part of the problem, when they fail to provide leadership, as unfortunately it has been the case in the Eu since Delors left.

    Well, the damage is done and some bold fix is needed. At this point, two-speed Europe must no longer be taboo.

  35. Let us try to stick to the point viz. the demonstrable well-documented fall-off in public support for the European "project".

    There is no plot, But there is a misjudgement of a limited number of people, numbering in the hundreds, call them what you like, who first negotiated the "Constitution" and then, when this ran into the buffers, tried to rescue most of what had been agreed in the preceding Convention and IGC and shoving it, by way of amendment, into the existing treaties. The result is both unreadable and incomprehensible to the man in the street.

    That is the reality. The fact that the entire undertaking is well-intentioned is neither here nor there. The road to hell, as the syaing goes, is paved with such intentions.

  36. "If the Polish constitutional system does not regulate the matter satsifactorily, this is a structural problem with the potential to cause recurring problems."

    Well, Polish law does regulate it: it is the President's prerogative to ratify such a treaty, but parliamentary approval (or, as you call it, "ratification") is required. Whether it is satisfactory or not, that may depend on one's political views.


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