Thursday 17 July 2008

Lisbon Treaty: Sarkozy accused

The Irish ’no’ side has hurled accusations at the current president of the European Council, France’s Nicoalas Sarkozy, for suggesting a second referendum in Ireland on the EU Treaty of Lisbon, ahead of his discussions with the Irish government 21 July 2008.

Criticism against bullying, a more resounding ‘no’ victory next time, as well as national or pan-European ‘no’ campaigns at the European elections 2009 have been aired by different activists.

Without constructive proposals, these opinions would lead to the Treaty of Nice remaining the crowning achievement of European integration.

The common objective of the campaigners seems to be to harden resistance against any constructive solution for Europe.

The supposedly pro-European Irish have baffled not only European opinion, as recorded by The Irish Times ‘Lisbon vote baffles US, says Bruton’ (17 July 2008):


A number of Irish government ministers have only been able to say that they need time to think about solutions.

Not a great help, this far.


Legally, the European Union is based on the Nice Treaty, and the Lisbon Treaty requires the ratification of all 27 member states, as it now stands.

Still, it is highly simplistic to say that the Lisbon Treaty is dead, period.

It would be foolish to disregard the political dynamics behind almost a decade of EU treaty reform exertions.

All the member states’ governments have signed up to the Treaty of Lisbon, and more than four out of five of the national parliaments have approved the amending treaty. The ratification processes have continued, with only three parliamentary ratifications missing.


If neither ‘no’ campaigners nor the government in Ireland are willing or able to formulate solutions, what should the rest of Europe do?

President Sarkozy has the unwelcome duty to look for ways to solve the problems.

In spite of abuse from opponents, a second referendum leading to a ‘yes’ vote, is legally possible within the constraints of the Lisbon Treaty. Supposing that all the other member states ratify, this would preserve the unity of the European Union. Sarkozy is almost duty bound to ask if this is the first option of the Irish government.

(Personally, I doubt the wisdom of putting the same question to a second vote in Ireland.)

Sooner or later the Irish government has to decide.

Is there going to be a new plebiscite?

Are there Irish concerns which can be accommodated within the parameters of the Lisbon Treaty?

What happens if a second referendum leads to a new ‘no’ vote?

How is Ireland going to act in case of a new ‘no’ victory, or if no second referendum is arranged?

Is Ireland going to look for a solution, which allows the ratifying states to move along?

Is Ireland going to fight to the end to fetter the rest of Europe to the Nice Treaty?


In each case, the other EU member states have to decide what they want and what it takes to achieve it.

But first they need answers from Ireland. Dallying is no help.

Ralf Grahn


  1. I agree that President Sarkozy shouldn't ask to Ireland to run a secon referendum. He shouldn't ask them anything.

    The French government has acted as a part of the no side:
    campaigning for an Eu defence, calling for tax harmonisation and last, but not least threatening Irish about the consequences of a no. All just before the referendum.

    When Sarkozy announced a joint French-German statement after the referendum, I waited for a bold move...which didn't come.

    Instead we got this fanciful Mediterannean Union. Well, I confess I'm med-sceptic. (Surely, being Italian, I cannot be anti-mediterranean, can I?)

  2. Igor, Italy,

    Now I am not quite sure of whom you agree with.

    In my view, the country holding the EU Council presidency, currently France, has a duty to look for solutions which take into account the European Union as a whole and the express interests of a vast majority of the member states.

    In this case Ireland is the main problem on the route to unanimous ratification. Thus, there are reasons to ask if the Irish governments has any solutions to offer inside the parameters of the Lisbon Treaty or outside.

    Some Europeans have waited for bold moves for fifty years, only to be repeatedly disappointed.

    This time we have to follow each step to see where it leads. It is hard to predict.

    Only this morning I read the Economist blog saying that there is no mood for a core group (or something).

    On the other hand, perhaps the other alternatives have to be explored, one by one, before the time is ripe.

  3. Ralf Grahn,

    Please forgive my previous rant, I feel a bit embittered towards the current presidency of the council.

    You're probably right saying that Core Europe will be only played as the last card. Anyway, I think that Europe cannot wait for this Taoiseach, who run this helpless yes campaign, to make up his mind and lose a second referendum. Not less than a year before the European elections.

    According to the Economist, it's never the time for Core Europe...only for further enlargment.

  4. Igor, Italy,

    Even the parts of British opinion not wholly dedicated to the anti-European cause are often tainted by a certain idea of estrangement from mainstream European thought.

    On the other hand, Britain has been able to resist progress for so long that it is very easy to imagine that it will succeed forever.

    Actually, it is unimaginative to think that a new union or core group would have to consist of all the member states minus one or two.

    In fact, an avant-garde could start with two members (or more).

    I agree that after all these wasted years, time is of the essence.

    New rules for the next European Parliament and for the next Commission, otherwise the reforms are partly lost for five years.


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