Tuesday 8 July 2008

Lisbon Treaty ratifiers represent 357 million Europeans

If we take the latest Eurostat figures (as of 1 January 2007), the total population of the European Union is 495.1 million.

The 21 member states where the parliamentary ratification is concluded account for 357.2 million Europeans (about 72 per cent of the EU total).

The slow, undecided or negative member states have the following population numbers (millions):

Belgium 10.6

The Czech Republic 10.3

Italy 59.1

Spain 44.5

Sweden 9.1


Ireland 4.3


As of today, we have 77 per cent of the member states, representing 72 per cent of the total EU population, behind the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Is the Irish electorate a better judge on the future of Europe than the national parliaments?

Ralf Grahn


  1. Ralf, I really think that you need to take a "chill pill". Go on, you'll feel better for it !

  2. Fergus,

    Thank you for your considerate suggestion, but I feel acutely sorry for Ireland and the Irish.

    What on earth are you going to do?

    I would be a lot cooler if I knew that you have a realistic plan for the future.

  3. Ralf I love the blog even though i disagree with most of it. 10 Countries were promised referenda on the EU Constitution.That process was abandoned after the French and Netherlands ( except Lux and a few parliamentary ratifications)voted no.2 years later we get the treaty of Lisbon which Giscard and other leaders assure us is 90% the same document yet deliberately designed as a treaty in a blatent attempt to avoid the need for a referendum.I am astonished that so many pro eu people are ok with this process.
    Or is such an attempt to circumvent the popular will justified in the name of the greater cause?The parliaments do not reflect the will of the people on this issue.For starters most parties dont allow a free vote and most parliamentarians are concerned about their opportunities for advancement/ promotion above principles and beliefs.

  4. Vid,

    Thank ou for finding my blog agreeable, although its opinions wrong.

    I have a hard time commiserating the lack of referenda, since I believe that national referenda are the wrong way to approve EU treaty amendments.

    In most cases politicians give in to populist pressure and abdicate their responsibility if they promise a referendum.

    I am aware of the moral problem, when politicians, stupidly, have promised a referendum and then renege on that promise, although much of the content of the Lisbon Treaty is the same as the Constitutional Treaty. (I think I called it the 'referendum dilemma' in an old post.)

    The French (which I followed intensely) and the Dutch referendum campaigns further confirmed my belief in representative democracy.

    People, including parliamentarians, have their self-serving sides, but negotiations, drafting, debate, committee scrutiny, expert witnesses etc. tend to lead to better results, in my view.

    Plus, other international treaties are ratified by parliaments, as are laws enacted.

    I have rarely found anyone demanding a referendum on an EU treaty able to give a principled view on when referenda should be used.

    I do believe in a 'greater cause', namely a robust and democratic European Union as an instrument towards enhancing the security and prosperity of EU citizens. This actually makes me quite critical of the EU we have now.

  5. I doubt whether parliamentary approval equals ratification. One should be more precise in those kind of things.

  6. Ralf, a social, cultural, and economic EU is a wonderful thing, a Political one is a horse of a different colour. What's the big panic and rush for us to get into a mega-state? Environmental issues, energy security, immigration management, social services, and inter-governmental agency co-operation will work just fine under the current system.

  7. g,

    Thank you for offering me the opportunity to be even more exact, since I have not found it necessary to burden every post with certain basics covered earlier.

    I am well aware of the fact that ratification is formally concluded by depositing the ratification instrument with the Italian government.

    In a normal parliamentary democracy, there are usually two essential stages: The government proposes and the parliament approves.

    Presidential signature, in countries where it is needed, normally is seen as a constitutional formality, not an opportunity to scheme against the government and parliament.

    To make things clear, you can see that I usually use qualifiers in my various posts to remind readers of the practical ratification decision (parliament) and the existence of the later formalities:

    I have used expressions like the essential requirements of ratification, parliamentary ratification process, parliamentary ratification etc. to remind my readers of these distinctions.

    If, for instance Poland lacks clear rules and constitutional practice on presidential signature, and if this structural deficiency is used by the current president to plot and to position himself against the parliamentary majority, these actions go against the grain of a parliamentary system.

    Even in presidential democracies, such as the USA, the drafters of the Constitution have been wise enough to foresee the modalities for presidential vetoes, with provisions on how to override them.

    To be precise, in a political sense, presidential politicking in Poland by Lech Kaczynski hurts the international standing of Poland and himself.

    It is for others to evaluate if his disruptive tactics will lead to substantial or PR gains for him internally, but these are questions you have refused to answer before, to be precise.

  8. Caoimhin,

    Three things come to my mind when I read your comment:

    1) The Lisbon Treaty, after nearly eight years of treaty reform work, hardly represents a rush (in time) or even a great leap (substantially), but it would bring some improvements desired by 27 governments and, now, 21 parliaments.

    2) The position of Ireland worries me, because it looks like a dead end.

    I have seen fairly little Irish discussion taking account of the external world, or the rest of the EU, and almost nothing on workable solutions.

    Even the opponents of the Lisbon Treaty seem to sleep, leaving it to the government they have discredited or the European partners to sort out the mess.

    In a strictly legal sense the Lisbon Treaty is 'dead' without unanimous ratification, but it is wise to try to fathom the political dynamics of the gruelling treaty reform process.

    Do you really think that it is wise just to say 'no' and then to do nothing?

    Hard thinking is what I want to provoke.

    3) If we look beyond the confines of the Lisbon Treaty, the future EU needs a robust foreign, security and defence policy, since the relatively small European nations cannot deliver effective solutions, and these powers should be based on EU level democratic legitimacy.

  9. "Do you really think that it is wise just to say 'no' and then to do nothing?

    Hard thinking is what I want to provoke."

    There may be these who think that there is no need to deepen the integration. And for them "doing nothing" might be as appropriate solution. You believe that the future EU needs a robust foreign, security and defence policy, but for others this may be seen as a threat for independent nation-states. More, some people (mostly in the UK, but also in Germany) even say "give us EC back", which probably means that customs union was good enough for them. If they think that EC was better for European states without further political integration, then their "doing nothing" (or even desctruction of some structures) is pro-European.

  10. g,

    You seem to be a firm believer in applying the Peter's principle to nation states.

    Hving attained their level of incompetence, they can continue the charade or do some hard thinking.

    The obligation of leaders is to think ahead, not to walk with the crowds who have other things on their mind.

  11. "The obligation of leaders is to think ahead, not to walk with the crowds who have other things on their mind."

    This may be true, but how do you reconcile this belief with another statement of yours, which also may be accurate: "I see the paternalistic European project heading for failure without the support of the citizens".

    I am afraid that the whole EU project seems to be alien to many people. They see the EU as "them", not as "us". And recent "solidarity against referendums" movement does no good in this respect.

  12. g,

    Everything cannot be solved in a few sentences.

    Although political leaders have to be popular in some way in order to get voted in, their main task is to do the right things in office, not necessarily the most crowd-pleasing ones.

    If crucial questions have emigrated to the global and the EU level, it is better to build democracy at the EU level (where it would be possible), than to try to re-export the issues back to the nation states.

    The present EU project is paternalistic in the sense that the EU citizens are not allowed to vote in and out the officeholders or determine the political course of the union.

    The nation states are no salvation, but the intergovernmentalist-supranationalist EU project is no longer viable in its present form.

    On the positive side: It should be a much smaller revolution to establish democracy on a new level of governance than it was to introduce democratic rule in Europe originally.

  13. GL, I voted yes in the Irish refereudum. However, when you write a post like this one, you fuel the "no" campaign, who thrive on anything that suggests that an "unfettered" EU will ride roughshod over smaller nations.

    Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and please notice that this is exactly what you are implying here. As my compatriot says, do take a chill pill!

    The rules are the rules, which meant that it was all in or none in when it came to ratification (which I appreciate that you know full well). The Irish people voted in the numbers and the manner in which we did and we now got to go figure out where next for the EU - difficult and all as this is going to be.

    Representative democracy is always a nuisance when it does not go your way. However, it is then, more than ever, that you must respect it.

  14. Hi Ralf, I have no answers only questions about the EU and the direction it seems to be taking. When all is said and done I feel that the Irish voters simply do not trust the direction the EU is heading and are questioning what their agenda is.
    If the nations of the world are posturing themselves into bloc's in the hopes of winning a struggle for resources then now is the time for cool heads to survey the situation and devise another alternative to this "Resource Race", look where the arms race got us!

  15. Longman Oz,

    As I have said, I would be much calmer if I saw real signs of that thinking taking place.

  16. Caoimhin,

    Joschka Fischer said that the surrounding world is moving ahead at Formula 1 speed, and Europe stuck at a snail's pace.

    If you don't like the direction of the EU, couldn't you please try to come up with some viable alternatives?

  17. Ralf,
    I understand your views but I feel that a federal Europe is something that must evolve from the bottom not imposed by the political elite.Democracy may be a imperfect system but i think sovereignity rests the people and is loaned to the governments.Surely the governments who by their nature are temperory dont have the right to pool competences without their consent.

  18. Vid,

    I see a representative democratic system as interactive. The people vote in the officeholders they want and thus set the general course for government.

    But the government needs to show leadership and vision beyond the momentary concerns of the electors. The difference between a statesman and a politician, if you like.

    Since you mention a federal Europe, I can say that I agree with you to some extent:

    If Europe was proposed a real federal and democratic Constitution, this 'qualitative jump' would in my view merit a pan-EU referendum, needing a double majority of citizens and states.

    The new union would be established among the 'yes' states only.

  19. The history of the Constitutional and Lisbon treaties is one of colossal political ineptitude by the leaders of the larger Member States. They have succeeded in leaving the people behind.

    There is no need to feel sorry for the Irish. There is considerable sympathy for their position among the populations of Europe and the other leaders, Sarkozy in particular, know it. Whether referendums are appropriate or not is politucally beside the point. The responsibility for creating the expectation that they would be held does not lie with the Irish.

    A question! Is it the case that the European elections in June 2009cannot be held other than under the existing rules if the Lisbon Treaty is not in force on 1 January 2009?

    This question is not as silly as it may seem (given the impossibility of Ireland ratifying within that timescale) but what if other Member States have also failed to ratify?

    The most likely candidate is Germany where the cases before the Constitutional Court are unlikely to have been settled and the President will continue to see himself as not in a position to sign the instrument of ratification.

    In any case, given the changes in the makeup of the European Parliament, and the impact in individual Member States, not to mention the fact that the European Parliament has to make the initial proposal, could the Council ever have been expected to adopt the necessary provisions (Article 223.1of Consolidated TFEU text and Declaration 5) in time i.e. even without the bodyblow of the Irish no?

    Answers on one side of the paper please.

  20. Anonymous,

    I suppose that there is some margin as to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, but not much.

    I assume that the German Constitutional Court would be able to decide on the cases before the end of 2008. Germany would thus be a late ratifier, providing that the Court approves the treaty.

    I haven't checked, but if I remember correctly the European Parliament has made its proposal concerning the 2009 EP elections.

    But the Council and the member states would have to answer if the necessary provisions could be laid down and approved in time.


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