Monday 22 June 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: “Meaningless” Irish guarantees?

Yesterday’s blog post, EU Lisbon Treaty: Vaclav Klaus is wrong, showed that Czech President Vaclav Klaus did not quite attain the standards of "every normal human being, a first form pupil” in his understanding of the guarantees to Ireland. He can hardly have been caught unawares, because the assurances were outlined by the European Council in December 2008, and Klaus has missed few opportunities to pontificate on Lisbon Treaty matters.


“Meaningless guarantees” to Ireland

The lobby group Open Europe has attacked the assurances given to Ireland on different grounds: Irish to vote on exactly the same text of Lisbon Treaty – EU admits that nothing has changed (19 June 2009).

The core argument of Open Europe – which seems to contradict Klaus’ statements – is that the deal makes no change whatsoever to the text of the Treaty, meaning Irish voters will be voting on exactly the same text they rejected last year.

If the Lisbon Treaty remains the same, are the guarantees meaningless?

We are in agreement with Open Europe that the European Council can retain a Commissioner from each member state and that the rest of the Treaty remains unchanged.

The Irish government has asked for the assurances based on the distorted claims of No campaigners ahead of the first referendum. Many Irish voters were confused by forceful, but erroneous assertions, and they felt that they did not understand the Lisbon Treaty.

Thus, it is only logical that the government of Ireland has sought correct interpretations on some issues, which confused the electorate. The assurances are shorter to read and easier to understand than a presentation of the whole amending treaty. The other EU member states have given these clarifications their seal of approval.



Open Europe has found one expert opinion to support the assertion that Irish military neutrality is at risk.

In my view, Dr Karen Devine’s interpretation is not correct. There is no need for a specific opt-out, because the Lisbon Treaty text on both defence policy in general and the mutual assistance clause already allows for each member state to define its own policy and action. Thus, Ireland does not need an opt-out.

The Presidency Conclusions of the June 2009 European Council seem to respond adequately to the concerns of Irish citizens with regard to neutrality, including the issue of mutual assistance, by clarifying the text of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Naturally, one can discuss if the lack of solidarity by Ireland is a desirable state of affairs in a political union such as the EU, but that is another story.


The guarantees are not meaningless, because they explain why major concerns in Ireland are groundless.

Open Europe has given No campaigners dud ammunition.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Dr Karen Devine wrote a series for the Irish Times on Irish neutrality - one which was wrong on a few points and had many people writing in to correct her. I have to admit I don't have much respect for an "expert" on Irish neutrality who showed no awareness of Ireland's offer of an alliance with the US in the history part of her series.

  2. Eurocentric,

    Thank you for the additional information, which I wasn't aware of, but on the other hand it means that I reached my conclusions independently, on the merits, so to say.

    Open Europe should perhaps be a bit more careful about the "experts" they use to bolster their arguments.

    Incidentally, I have asked Open Europe to show me the documents where they lay down their vision for a profoundly reformed Europe, which they are calling for.

  3. Grahnlaw,

    I would like to point out to you that the guarantees gien to ireland aren't being signed by the eu leaders. They (rest of EU) sign one 'legally binding contract' whilst Mr Cowen signs a separate one on irelands behalf. Legally binding my arse!!!. And as for neutrality, The Lisbon treaty strengthens the European Armiment (Defence etc,)so as they can compete on a global level as the EU selling weapons to god knows who. Maybe that doesnt affect irelands neutrality in the short term, but the treaty paves the way for an EU army. A rose by any other name n all that.....

  4. Anonymous,

    At this stage the European Council has twice agreed politically on the course of action to follow, which is a package.

    Ireland has the right to remain neutral, which the clarifying interpretations clearly state. It does not prevent Ireland from participating in defence policy or armaments cooperation, if Ireland wants to, but that remains in the hands of the Irish government and parliament.

    Personally, I would like to see a common European defence in the future, but the Irish guarantees have not brought that even a hair's breadth closer.


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