Wednesday 30 September 2009

Who is Jan Peter Balkenende?

If the Irish vote Yes in the Lisbon 2009 referendum, the Lisbon Treaty has been approved in all member states and it should enter into force as quickly as possible. (Procrastination by Polish President Lech Kaczynski and active sabotage by Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his defeated Senators would lack legitimacy in the eyes of Europe.)

The European Council would nominate its President and the new High Representative.

Despite talk about former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, even presented as a done deal by Jean Quatremer in Coulisses de Bruxelles, the name of Jan Peter Balkenende has been cropping up with increasing frequency.

Balkenende is Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 2002, and he belongs to the political family of centre-right Christian Democrats, dominant in the EU member states. He has represented his mid-sized country in the European Council about seven years, and he would probably cause less outcry among the public than Blair, who lead his country tightly along the lines of Bush and failed in his promise to bring the UK to the heart of Europe.

Here is a short Wikipedia biography of Balkenende.

If two of the three top jobs go to centre-right or liberal politicians, the centre-left can expect to get the third. In case of a Barroso and Balkenende solution, the European leaders might look for a High Representative among the social democrats (socialists).

This scenario would mean trouble for such potential candidates as Sweden’s Carl Bildt, Italy’s Franco Frattini and Finland’s Olli Rehn.

Could it be the German social democrat Frank Walter Steinmeier, who represents a big (the biggest) member state, as Jean Quatremer suggests?

Ralf Grahn

European Parliament political groups

The opening page of the European Parliament has a handy box with access to the political groups.

According to size, you find the centre-right EPP Group (European People’s Party), the centre-left S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), the Greens/EFA (Greens and European Free Alliance) – all with updated information.


We then proceed to the ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists). The link for the anti-EU right leads nowhere.


The leftist GUE/NGL (European United Left – Nordic Green Left) features functioning web pages with news and information.


The link to the europhobe EFD (Europe of Freedom and Democracy) group leads nowhere.


The European Parliament was elected in June 2009, but the nationalistic parties on the right have been unable or unwilling to assemble working web pages with information to the public.

Ralf Grahn

European Union aims (short version)

Friday’s vote in Ireland means a choice between the Treaty of Nice and the amending Treaty of Lisbon.

This is the short version of the aims of the European Union, straight from Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) of the consolidated (readable) Lisbon Treaty:

Article 3 TEU
(ex Article 2 TEU)

1. The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.

2. The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

3. The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.

It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.

It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States. It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.

4. The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.

5. In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.

6. The Union shall pursue its objectives by appropriate means commensurate with the competences which are conferred upon it in the Treaties.


I wish that the voters in Ireland return a resounding Yes in the Lisbon 2009 referendum as an expression of hope for economic prosperity and a better future in Ireland and Europe as well as the world.

If there were any doubts before the referendum campaign, the scarecrow crowd of naysayers have convincingly dissipated them.

For Ireland and Europe!

Ralf Grahn

Vatican defends the indefensible

More than a billion people in the world look towards the Pope for spiritual guidance, but how does the Vatican respond to the 2002 Ryan report on child abuse in Ireland and clerical paedophilia elsewhere?

The Shiraz Socialist is disgusted by the response, and refers to the Guardian article “Sex abuse rife in other religions, says Vatican”.


Defending the indefensible.

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 29 September 2009

European Union values

One of the good things about the Lisbon Treaty is its statement on the founding values, in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”


Organisations built by humans seldom attain perfection, but if the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, the actions of the European Union are going to be measured against these founding values.

One more reason to put the Lisbon Treaty into practice.

Ralf Grahn

Daniel Hannan froths about secondary issues

The headline of anti-EU UK Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan’s Telgraph blog post states categorically:

EU breaks its own rules to funnel money into Irish referendum

What the assertion boils down to is unverified information that lawyers in the Commission and Council legal services have expressed reservations, which is not the same thing.

Are these doubts official positions, or individual musings? We have no way to tell.


Hannan continues by wondering why “Eurocrats” wants the Lisbon Treaty so badly.

He twists the facts. Hannan knows full well that all 27 EU member states agreed on the Lisbon Treaty in order to improve how the European Union works. He is aware of the fact that 26 national parliaments have approved the amending treaty, in most cases by large, qualified majorities and in a number of member states by two houses of parliament. The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Lisbon Treaty.

Of course they want the Irish to approve the Lisbon Treaty, and Ireland is the only EU country where approval is still needed.

Hannan should ask the member states if they oppose information from the Commission to the EU citizens about the Treaty of Lisbon or other EU matters.


If the information is correct, there is nothing to complain about.

If it is false, Hannan and everyone else is invited to show the errors.

Is Daniel Hannan afraid of informing the public about the Lisbon Treaty?

Daniel Hannan, the EU Commission and I share a common trait: We are not Irish. But the Lisbon Treaty is an issue of European interest.

Hannan clearly wants to incite the Irish to vote No in the Lisbon 2009 referendum (and to do the dirty work for the UK Conservatives), but he wants to restrict the free flow of information from the Commission (more objective information at that).

Double standards?

Ralf Grahn

European Commission: Your guide to the Lisbon Treaty

Besides heavy reports and proposals, the EU Commission regularly publishes lighter booklets for the general public, often from a citizen’s perspective.

A recent addition is Your guide to the Lisbon Treaty, available in the official EU languages in a both a text only version and an illustrated version.

(The English and the Gaelic version are on the same web page, but otherwise choose your language in the upper right hand corner.)



The introduction presents the general aims of the Lisbon Treaty and the publication:

“After decades of war that cost millions of lives, the foundation of the EU marked the beginning of a new era where European countries solve their problems by talking, not fighting.

Today, members of the EU enjoy a wealth of benefits: a free market with a currency that makes trade easier and more efficient, the creation of millions of jobs, improved workers’ rights, free movement of people and a cleaner environment.

The existing rules, however, were designed for a much smaller EU, and an EU that did not have to face global challenges such as climate change, a global recession, or international cross-border crime. The EU has the potential, and the commitment, to tackle these problems, but can only do so by improving the way it works.

This is the purpose of the Lisbon Treaty. It makes the EU more democratic, efficient and transparent. It gives citizens and parliaments a bigger input into what goes on at a European level, and gives Europe a clearer, stronger voice in the world, all the while protecting national interests.

The Lisbon Treaty provides for a new Citizens’ Initiative, whereby you can, with one million signatures, petition the European Commission to advance new policy proposals.

National parliaments in each Member State will be given a greater role in examining EU laws before they are passed to ensure that the EU does not overstep its mark on matters that should be dealt with at a national or local level.

The powers of the European Parliament will be increased, giving the MEPs you directly elect more of a say on a wider range of issues.

Contrary to the existing (Nice) Treaty, the Commission will continue to be formed of one Commissioner from every Member State.

This leaflet explains what the Lisbon Treaty means to you as a citizen."



The contents of the brochure (20 pages) are the following:





The road to Lisbon

More about the institutional changes

Some technical terms


Informed citizens see the merits of an improved European Union, and they tend to see the needs for further reform.

Ralf Grahn

Consolidated EU Treaty of Lisbon

The consolidated Lisbon Treaty means that the amendments agreed by all the EU member states in December 2007 have been incorporated into the existing EU and EC Treaties.

We can read the amended treaties as they look, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.

Official Journal

The text is available in English and Gaelic as well as the other official EU languages on a number of web sites, following its publication on 9 May 2008 in the Official Journal of the European Union C 115.

Here is the English version of the consolidated Treaty of Lisbon, officially Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

You can access the desired language version by clicking on the abbreviation (above, right).


EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was published in the Official Journal on 14 December 2007 together with its explanations.


General explanations

The Government of Ireland has published a 2009 White Paper on the Lisbon Treaty, which explains the changes between the existing treaties and the amending treaty (129 pages). The document can be downloaded as a whole or in parts.


European Movement Ireland (EMI)

Mentioned in a blog post yesterday, the Lisbon fact sheets of the European Movement Ireland cover much of the same issues as the general information by the Government of Ireland, but they address questions and concerns separately under clearly visible headlines, making it easier to find the answer when you have a specific question in mind.


Positive mood

The latest opinion polls tell us that the mood in Ireland ahead of the Lisbon 2009 referendum is more optimistic and confident. The information efforts may have contributed to this positive shift, but there is still time to catch up, if you are unsure.

Ralf Grahn

Monday 28 September 2009

Daniel Hannan admits changed mood ahead of Lisbon referendum

The irreconcilable UK anti-EU crusader Daniel Hannan admits that the mood in Ireland has changed ahead of the Lisbon 2009 referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Hannan even conjectures on the reasons.

He only misses the most obvious causes for the latest reliable opinion polls:

The Irish voters are more knowledgeable because of information efforts and a longer debate. They are less confused by misleading assertions by No campaigners, because of clarifying guarantees and assurances by Ireland’s European partners. They realise that they are better off within the Eurozone and with the support of the European Central Bank, than outside on their own. They trust the business leaders, economists, academics, trade unionists and farmers’ leaders who believe that the Lisbon Treaty is in the best interests of Ireland. They comprehend that their country can make friends and influence people by participating fully in the European Union, rather than by rejecting the amending treaty.

The Irish may even see why Conservative English politicians are so keen for them to wreck the Lisbon Treaty.

Ralf Grahn

Excellent Lisbon Treaty information

Jason O’Mahony has been blogging away like a stakhanovite, mixing fact, fiction and humour against the backdrop of the Irish Lisbon 2009 referendum. His post on “The best Lisbon Treaty information out there” represented the more sober side of his “ramblings”.

Indeed, he recommended the Lisbon fact sheets of the European Movement Ireland, which present a lot of facts and puncture a number of rejectionist myths about the amending treaty.

Ralf Grahn

German elections and the European Union

The German elections have caused a shift in the federal parliament Bundestag, and they will bring in a new government coalition (Bundesregierung). The conservative parties, the Christian Democratic CDU and the Bavarian CSU, suffered some vote losses, but remain the largest group by far.

Angela Merkel has a clear mandate to continue as Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzlerin), but the record loss of the Social Democrats (SPD) finishes off the “grand coalition”, and the unprecedented success for the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) ushers in a “black-yellow” federal government.


Latest results

I decided to use the convenient web page of Deutsche Welle, Bundestagswahl 2009, which shows the results as of 00:42 CET.

The union parties CDU and CSU lost 1.4 per cent of the votes, but gained 13 seats (total: 239 MPs). The liberal FDP advanced by 32 seats to give them a total of 93 (votes + 4.8 %). This gives the new government coalition 332 seats out of a total of 622.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) suffered a catastrophic loss of 11.2 % of the votes and 76 seats, leaving them with 146 representatives in the new parliament.

If the liberals lunched on SPD on the right, the Left Party (Linke) dined on them on the left, gaining 3.2 percentage points in votes and adding 22 seats, bringing their total to 76 MPs.

The Green Party (Grüne) was also a winner. It gained 2.6 % in votes and 17 new seats, which brings their parliamentary group to a total of 68.

The opposition seats add up to 290 (out of 622).


Implications for Germany

Since the poor showing in the European Parliament elections in June, Social Europe has been trying to stimulate a debate on the crisis of socialist and social democratic parties in Europe. A new discussion opener notes the miserable SPD result in Germany.

Power&Politics World remarks on the personal triumph of Angela Merkel.

Mount EUlympus sees the election result as a great deception for the young generation without four wheel drives.

The German Marshall Fund Blog notes that the liberal leader Guido Westerwelle will become the next foreign minister and that the SPD’s defeated chancellor candidate Frank Walter Steinmeier will become opposition leader (chair of the SPD group). The GMF blog sees three changes in the German political landscape:

• a generational shift in the political leadership;
• fragmentation; and
• a re-polarization of politics.


Implications for Europe

The European Union is still primarily a confederation of member states, so all general elections have implications for European integration. In addition, Germany is the biggest EU member, with a population of 82.5 million, and it is traditionally the economic power-house of Europe. Historically, Germany is the other half of the Franco-German engine of European integration, and Germany is (in) the European mainstream.

Within the EU China shop, Germany is an elephant. Even small movements have consequences.

I found some early blog comments on the implications of the German elections for Europe. Whatseuropinion expects Angela Merkel’s position to be weakened within the new coalition, both by the CSU and the FDP. Julien Frisch speculates on the new German member of the EU Commission, and he expects a more market liberal approach.

Both are convinced that opposition in the second chamber, the Bundesrat, where the Länder are represented, is going to become harder, especially given the new laws accompanying the Lisbon Treaty.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt offers an elegant summary (in Swedish) on continuity and change in Germany, while Erkan presents an assortment of disappointed Turkish press reactions, with regard to the membership prospects of Turkey.


My comments

Germany – EU

Four years ago, I studied the detailed programme of the grand coalition, and I found it to be sadly passive, introverted and defensive. The cohabitation of the big Volksparteien has not disproved this initial impression.

For the sake of dynamism, a coalition change seemed to be in order, and the German voters have expressed the same view.

At European level, the competent German Presidency of the EU Council was led by Angela Merkel and Frank Walter Steinmeier, and it managed to relaunch the treaty reform process, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The new centre-right and liberal coalition will mostly stand for continuity in EU affairs as well as in wider European and world relations. The changes will depend on how much Guido Westerwelle makes an imprint of his own. His views, comments and first acts are going to be studied intensely.

After the great enlargement and the during the painful process of institutional reform, the European Union has become somewhat bleaker in the minds of national leaders, and the financial and economic crisis has led to protectionist moves by member states. In the case of Germany, the general atmosphere of national egoism and the upcoming elections did little to promote scrupulous attention to EU competition rules, when preparing rescue packages, such as Opel.

The big member states have become accustomed to having their way with a weakened EU Commission, although Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes seems to have fought valiantly for the application of common standards, despite the temporary lowering due to the crisis.

Will Germany see the long term interests of the internal market, or will it defend its prestige and pecuniary interests in the short term?

Many member states may be tempted to find more accommodating holders for the internal market and competition portfolios. On the other hand, these are the core areas of the European Community and the Commission’s competences.

Does the President-elect, José Manuel Barroso, have the spine and the clout to uphold the common standards through the nomination procedures and beyond?


Social democracy – EU

The French socialists still form an important part of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, but their constant infighting and challengers on the left have left them little room to devise new strategies for the 21st century. When leftist activist frequently sound as reliving the conditions described in Émile Zola’s Germinal, they have ceded the ground to the presidential majority of Nicolas Sarkozy almost by default.

But the general picture in the EU member states is that the formerly important moderate social democratic parties with a social conscience seem to have lost their bearings and that voters are abandoning them in droves. The centre-right parties dominate the governments in Europe, and Germany now adds to this trend.

For the sake of democracy, I think that Europe needs credible alternatives for future governments, and it is hard to imagine these without social democratic parties. But I am at a loss to grasp how the renewal could take place or how popular trust could be restored.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 27 September 2009

Ireland: Lisbon 2009 referendum

Earlier we have looked at basic information sources and interesting blogs ahead of the Irish 2 October 2009 referendum on the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon.

It is no secret that I see the imperfect Lisbon Treaty as a clear improvement on the existing Treaty of Nice, or that I hope that Ireland is willing to advance with the rest of the member states in an evolving European Union.


Irish Times

The Irish Times offers one of the best sources for news and opinion on its Lisbon 2009 web page. We can read the latest reports on politicians’ speeches, opinion polls, nuggets from the campaign trail, analysis, blogs etc. There are also links to relevant documents.

In just five days, the Irish are going to make a decision crucial to themselves and to the rest of Europe.

Despite some outrageous claims from the No side and a smattering of hype for the Yes vote, I do believe that the better informed the public is, the bigger the Yes vote will be.

Informed enough? Big enough?


Ralf Grahn

Is Sweden becoming a normal EU country?

Almost fifteen years have passed since Sweden joined the European Union together with Austria and Finland, on 1 January 1995. Neutrality and national sovereignty have deep roots in Sweden, one of the few corners of Europe to have stayed outside the European armed conflicts since the Napeolonic Wars.

Officially, joining the European Union and the supranational decision-making within the European Community was a major step for Sweden, but despite the positive referendum, basic Swedish attitudes did not change much.

Many Swedes saw European public services, public administrations and environmental norms as inferior to their own (unlike the situation in the former Communist countries).

They may have felt that they had more to teach the European Union than they had to learn from it.


Euro referendum

Despite the treaty obligation to adopt the common currency, Sweden arranged a referendum in 2003 on the adoption of the euro. After the negative outcome, Sweden and the European Union have connived to regard Sweden as technically falling foul of the Maastricht convergence criteria.

Slowly, Swedish acceptance of the euro currency has been on the increase. In May 2009 SR International – Sveriges Radio reported the first opinion poll with a more respondents in favour of adopting the euro (47 per cent; 44 per cent against).

Even if a referendum about a clear treaty obligation is as absurd in the future as it was in 2003, Swedish politicians dare not take the decision without a plebiscite. The Liberals (Folkpartiet) have clearly come out in favour of a new referendum in 2011.

It is possible that a new government following the September 2010 elections agrees to offer the Swedes a second chance during the following four years to join the Eurozone.

In case of a positive outcome, Sweden would become more of a normal EU member state.


Green Party

In October 2008, after an internal poll, the Green Party (Miljöpartiet de gröna) decided to drop their demand for Sweden to secede from the European Union.

Almost 13 years after Swedish EU accession, they became able to work in a realistic setting of Swedish EU membership and to cooperate more naturally within the European Green Party, although the party’s international information is rudimentary.

In Swedish politics the Greens are building an opposition block together with the Social Democrats and the Left Party.


Left Party

Even the ex-Communist Left Party leader Lars Ohly has now proposed abandoning the EU secession demand (Sveriges Radio, 26 September 2009).

When the ex-Communists are beginning to adapt after a decade and a half of Swedish EU membership, Sweden starts to look like a (more) normal EU member state.


Swedish EU Council Presidency

Swedish governments have been fairly low key in European Union affairs. Politically they have not been that far from British viewpoints about free trade and intergovernmental cooperation, but they have acted in a less contrarian manner. They are also less averse to fundamental and social rights, taxation or business regulation.

The Lisbon Treaty caused the usual popular demands for a referendum with the customary horrors painted, but after a long gestation period and much talk about the “Swedish labour market model”, the Parliament approved the amending treaty by a huge majority.

On the other hand, the Government (regeringen) and the Parliament (riksdagen) communicate openly about EU affairs (as about other matters), and they make continuing efforts to educate their citizens about the European Union and its policies. Parliamentary EU scrutiny is well ingrained, although possibly not as well documented as in Denmark and Finland.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s centre-right party Moderaterna did not emigrate to form the anti-European political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), in the European Parliament, with the UK Conservative Party, the Czech Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Polish Law and Justice. The Swedish Moderaterna sits in the largest EP group, the mainstream European People’s Party (EPP).

The Swedish Presidency of the EU Council, from July to the end of this year, has certainly kept the key Ministers and civil servants busy. From a netizen’s point of view, they have produced the best Presidency communications ever, and their professionalism has given practically no cause for public criticism.

It is hard to tell how interested ordinary Swedes are in the activities of the Council Presidency, but at least until now they could take pride in how their representatives are doing.

Difficult issues lie ahead during the coming months, but it is possible that the Swedes feel a shade more like stakeholders in Europe after the second Presidency.


One of these days, is it possible that Sweden wakes up to find that it has become a normal EU member state, and just possibly that the European Union is as much a learning experience as a teaching mission?

Ralf Grahn

Saturday 26 September 2009

A constructive Britain in the EU?

A constructive Britain in the European Union would be a great asset, but this is not about to happen. Read the opinions on Conservative Home to get an inkling of Tory solidarity with the UK’s European partners.

Read the latest interview with Conservative foreign policy spokesman William Hague, who rejects European integration and the Lisbon Treaty, but wants Britain to stay on the inside of the European Union.


With a Conservative government, Britain’s engagement in Europe is about to turn from bad to worse.

The UK destroying the Lisbon Treaty while remaining in the European Union would be the worst outcome for the other EU states.

Hague’s disregard for Britain’s European partners is perverse: Causing maximal damage.

If the United Kingdom feels ill at ease in an evolving European Union, it should secede. It can arrange its trade links through the European Economic Area (like Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), or bilaterally (as Switzerland). The only defensible referendum is on the basic question: In or Out?

Ralf Grahn

Aland Islands & EU Lisbon Treaty

Finland is one of the 24 member states, which have completed formal ratification, but the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon still lies in the Legal Committee of the regional Åland Parliament, which either consents to or rejects the applicability of the amending treaty in the autonomous province (population 27,000).

The local politicians are still holding out for increased representation and influence in the European Union (including a member of the European Parliament) and in Finnish EU affairs, but I failed to find any updates less than a month old on the web pages of the Åland Parliament (Ålands lagting), the Åland Government (Ålands landskapsregering), or the local media Ålandstidningen, Nya Åland and Ålands Radio/TV AB.


If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by all member states (of which 24 have completed formal ratification), it enters into force at the beginning of the following month.

Without Åland’s consent, since the new treaty replaces the Treaty of Nice, the Åland Islands would have no legal relationship with the European Union.

Ralf Grahn

Friday 25 September 2009

German Lisbon Treaty ratification completed

In his ninth roundup of Euroblogs, Julien Frisch noted my confidence in the German diplomatic service to deliver the ratification instrument of the Lisbon Treaty to the Italian Government in Rome.

We have not been disappointed. Germany has now taken this step for Europe.

According to the German Federal Government today, 25 September 2009, the ratification procedure of the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon has now been completed. After signing the enabling legislation, President Horst Köhler signed the ratification instrument, which has been deposited in Rome.

All eyes turn towards Ireland.

Ralf Grahn

Temporary EU Commission 2009?

According to the Article 214(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), the members of the Commission are appointed for a period of five years. (The term in office is renewable).

If the Treaty of Nice remains in force, the Commission which should take office from 1 November 2009 would normally be appointed for five years, until 31 October 2014.

However, if the Irish vote Yes in the Lisbon II referendum on 2 October 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon should enter into force, but we do not know if or for how long Czech President Vaclav Klaus might persist in his refusal to sign the ratification instrument.

Following an Irish Yes vote, the leaders of the EU member states may still have to initiate the appointment procedures for the next Commission under the Nice Treaty, without knowing when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.

Article 17(4) of the amended Treaty on European Union (in the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty) states that “(t)he Commission appointed between the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and 31 October 2014, shall consist of one national of each Member State, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who shall be one of its Vice-Presidents”.


The Lisbon Treaty seems to indicate that a new Commission is appointed from the day the treaty enters into force, and the new treaty replaces the old one.

After a Yes vote in Ireland, there would be no doubt about the democratic legitimacy of the Lisbon Treaty, despite eventual rearguard actions by President Vaclav Klaus and his fringe of supporters.

The "double-hatted" High Representative/Vice-President would have to be incorporated in his/her new capacity, despite a prior "26 + 1" solution under Nice.

This leads to the conclusion that the EU institutions should appoint the possible Nice Treaty Commission 2009 only until a new Commission can be appointed under the Treaty of Lisbon.


We look forward to reasoned information from the Swedish Council Presidency.

Ralf Grahn

Irish EU Commissioner under the Nice Treaty

Aided and abetted by champions of parliamentary supremacy such as David Cameron and William Hague, President Vaclav Klaus defies the Czech parliament and government. His refusal compromises the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and the international credibility of the Czech Republic.

The Czech government together with the other member states of the European Union have promised Ireland and the rest of the members a Commissioner, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force. The Irish voters hold the main key:

By voting Yes in the Lisbon II referendum, they assert their right to an Irish Commissioner.

President Klaus seems to want to weaken the Yes camp in Ireland, by refusing his long overdue signature on the Czech ratification instrument. If he succeeds by obstructing for another week and the Irish vote No, the Lisbon Treaty falls. Naturally, this is the preferred option for the anti-Europeans and the Europhobes.


Yes, but ...

If Ireland joins its European partners by voting Yes on 2 October 2009, the problems caused by Vaclav Klaus are not completely over.

The European Union needs a new Commission, up and running, from 1 November 2009. If the Czechs are unable to sort out their constitutional mess, and President Klaus still refuses to budge, the European leaders are forced to look for alternative and perhaps temporary solutions, in order to put a new Commission in place, nearly in time. This is the burden of responsibility.

The European Council would have to initiate the appointment procedure under the existing Treaty of Nice.


Nice Treaty Commission

Article 213 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) has been amended by the 2001 Protocol (No 10) on the enlargement of the European Union, as amended by the 2003 Act of Accession.

After the accession of Bulgaria and Romania (2007), which brought the membership of the European Union to 27, Article 4(2) of the Protocol offers us the contents of the amended Article 213(1), currently in force:

“2. When the Union consists of 27 Member States, Article 213(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community and Article 126(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community shall be replaced by the following:

‘1. The Members of the Commission shall be chosen on the grounds of their general competence and their independence shall be beyond doubt.

The number of Members of the Commission shall be less than the number of Member States. The Members of the Commission shall be chosen according to a rotation system based on the principle of equality, the implementing arrangements for which shall be adopted by the Council, acting unanimously.

The number of Members of the Commission shall be set by the Council, acting unanimously.’.

This amendment shall apply as from the date on which the first Commission following the date of accession of the 27th Member State of the Union takes up its duties.


Smaller Commission

The amended Treaty of Nice is unequivocal about the number of Commissioners: It must be less than the number of member states.

The intention of the member states was to agree on a rotation system, based on the principle of equality.

Article 4(3) of the Protocol offers us a view of how the member states wanted the rotation system to turn out:

“3. The Council, acting unanimously after signing the treaty of accession of the 27th Member State of the Union, shall adopt:

— the number of Members of the Commission,

— the implementing arrangements for a rotation system based on the principle of equality containing all the criteria and rules necessary for determining the composition of successive colleges automatically on the basis of the following principles:

(a) Member States shall be treated on a strictly equal footing as regards determination of the sequence of, and the time spent by, their nationals as Members of the Commission; consequently, the difference between the total number of terms of office held by nationals of any given pair of Member States may never be more than one;

(b) subject to point (a), each successive college shall be so composed as to reflect satisfactorily the demographic and geographical range of all the Member States of the Union.”



Before the Council nominates the members of the Commission, it needs to take the unanimous decision on the modalities.

Various news reports have indicated that the EU member states, once convinced of the need for an effective college of Commissioners, have taken fright at the prospect of ever losing “their” Commissioner. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and EU Minister Cecilia Malmström have acknowledged the “stage-fright” of the member states.

The EU members seem to be heading for a solution, which reduces the Commission by just one member. The country of the High Representative would have no member of the Commission (but it is possible to arrange for him or her to attend the meetings of the Commission).

The “26 + 1” solution certainly flies in the face of the original purpose of the treaty provision, and it is hard to square with the wording about a rotation system and the modalities envisioned, but practically the same intentions and words are contained in the Lisbon Treaty, which the member states were ready to evade in order to help the Irish.

The difference is that there is no escape from some reduction under the (amended) Nice Treaty, whereas the Lisbon Treaty offers the European Council the possibility to alter the number by a unanimous decision.

The Council and Commission legal services must have found sufficient interpretations in favour of this minimalist solution for the member states to discuss it earnestly, but I would not bet my life on the outcome in case of a legal challenge to an act by such a Commission.

I hope that the Swedish Council Presidency, if it has to manage such a minimalist solution, offers the public not only the bare bones decision, but the legal reasoning behind it, preferably beforehand to allow for public discussion.


Irish Commissioner?

Apart from my lingering doubts about the legality of the “26 + 1” Commission under the Treaty of Nice, does this option have implications for Ireland and the Lisbon II referendum?

Between the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and 31 October 2014, the Commission shall consist of one national of each member state (including the President and the High Representative/Vice-President), so the guarantee to Ireland would take practical effect from 1 November 2014.

Until then, both the Lisbon Treaty and the possible “26 + 1” decision would (practically) safeguard a member of the Commission from each member state. (Cf. Article 17(4) and (5) TEU in the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty.)

From 2014 the situation might be different. For the “Irish guarantee” to be meaningful, it has to be intended to cover the situation from 1 November 2014. Under the Treaty of Nice, it is hard to imagine that the member states agree on anything but a stopgap measure to avoid institutional deadlock.

It is difficult to predict if the member states return to their original aim to ensure a more cohesive Commission. If enlargement of the European Union is allowed to continue (a big if under the Nice Treaty), the “26 + 1” solution would in effect turn into a “n – 1” formula (with n representing the number of member states, if each new member gets a Commissioner.

By each accession the Commission would then become even more like an assembly, instead of an executive body. By 2014 the member states may well be frustrated enough to take the leap.


Anti-Europeans and Europhobes have been quick to trumpet the “meaningless” guarantee in order to weaken the Yes vote.

But – again – have they done their homework?

The Lisbon Treaty is a safer bet for an Irish Commissioner beyond 2014 (and possibly even in 2009).

Ralf Grahn

Thursday 24 September 2009

Czech hand-wringing over EU Lisbon Treaty

Czech govt wants country to ratify Lisbon treaty by year’s end” reports (23 September 2009).

So would every other government in the EU member states, and so would 26 national parliaments, which have approved the Lisbon Treaty. So would the EU institutions, which should be up and running, with a new Commission from 1 November 2009.

The problem is that acting Prime Minister Jan Fischer offers no solution to this Czech constitutional problem, which holds Europe hostage.

Is hand-wringing all we can expect from the Czech Republic?


Vaclav Klaus

Czech President Vaclav Klaus must have an objective for his disregard for Czech and European parliamentary democracy.

David Cameron and his foreign policy supremo William Hague hold out the long term promise of a revocation of the United Kingdom’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, after a Conservative victory in the next general election.

But more immediately, Klaus and his fringe of supporters can try to dispirit the Irish voters ahead of the Lisbon II referendum.

Ireland has been promised a Commissioner, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force. If Klaus and his henchmen are allowed to make their country the laughing stock of Europe and ridicule the purposes of the rest of Europe, some Irish voters may lose hope.


Clearer alternatives

Clear decisions are needed in the Czech Republic before the Irish referendum.

Ireland needs to return a ringing Yes vote in the face of the insidious plots of Klaus and the Tories.

If the Lisbon Treaty is delayed or falls, a new and closer union becomes a necessity.

Ralf Grahn

Irish EU Commissioner under the Lisbon Treaty

If the EU Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, the heads of state or government of the member states have promised Ireland (and their own countries) that each member retains a Commissioner.

The European Council on 18 to 19 June 2009 issued the following (re)statement about the size of the Commission (Presidency Conclusions, point 2; Council document 11225/2/09 REV 2):

“Having carefully noted the concerns of the Irish people as set out by the Taoiseach, the European Council, at its meeting of 11-12 December 2008, agreed that, provided the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, a decision would be taken, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, to the effect that the Commission shall continue to include one national of each Member State.”


Lisbon II referendum

In principle, this means that there will continue to be an Irish member of the Commission 2009 and 2014, instead of a smaller Commission under the Treaty of Nice from 2009.

If the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, there will be a national from each member state in 2009, but the appointment procedure will change. (In 2014 there would be a smaller Commission, without the promise to Ireland. Cf. amended Article 17(4) and (5) TEU.)

The European Council made the promise to Ireland in good faith in June: The parliaments of all the other member states had approved the Lisbon Treaty. Normally, the completion of formal ratification of international treaties causes no problems in constitutionally sound democracies.

After the 30 June ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat have passed new enabling legislation, and on 22 September the Court has dismissed an appeal against the new legislation. Federal President Horst Köhler has signed the new enabling legislation, which will enter into force today. Tomorrow Köhler will sign the ratification instrument.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski has been politicking by refusing to sign the ratification instrument, but he has given the European leaders assurances that he will, if Germany ratifies and the Irish vote Yes in the Lisbon II referendum. Even Poland will not necessarily delay the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty beyond the date for Irish ratification, if Kaczynski acts promptly.

If all the formal ratifications take place within October, the Treaty of Lisbon would enter into force on 1 November 2009.

The new Commission should start its work the same day, but even in the best case a short delay is foreseeable.

Although the next President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has been approved by the European Parliament, shifting to the Lisbon Treaty, the list of members has to be adopted by the Council by common accord with the President-elect. The European Parliament will hear the proposed Commissioners, before it gives its vote of consent to the Commission as a body, including the “double-hatted” High Representative.

In practice this means that the European Council would have to appoint both the new High Representative/Vice-President and the new President of the European Council before the proposal to the European Parliament.

If the European leaders remember their and the Lisbon Treaty’s words about “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen”, their nominations, proposals and decisions must leave ample time for the European Parliament and EU citizens, ahead of the final decisions.

After consent by the European Parliament, the Commission is then appointed by the European Council acting by a qualified majority (amended Article 17(7) TEU).

Naturally, the EU institutions and the member states want the new Commission in place as soon as possible, but time is running short.


Czech sabotage

The European Union needs working institutions. A short “extra time” for the caretaker Commission, which has been hobbling on its last legs for quite a while, may be unavoidable. But a prolonged period of uncertainty is hardly acceptable.

The Czech Government, the Czech Parliament, the EU institutions and the member states are now held hostage by President Vaclav Klaus, who has refused to sign the ratification instrument and seems to thrive on damaging the reputation of his country, with the implicit support of David Cameron and William Hague.

If the Czech constitutional system (Government, Parliament, Constitutional Court) is unwilling or unable to sort out the deliberate sabotage of one state organ – the President – in short order, the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council seems to be heading for an unenviable task.

Are the Czech institutions unable to give any intelligent answers? Are they devoid of constructive solutions? Are Czech citizens content to see their President making a fool of their parliamentary democracy? Are the European leaders paralysed?

It is still possible that the Lisbon Treaty enters into force at a later date, which guarantees an Irish Commissioner, but there is a clear risk that the EU member states have to appoint a smaller Commission under the (amended) Treaty of Nice.

This gives rise to legal, political and practical problems. Are we going to have two Commissions before 31 October 2014, because of Vaclav Klaus?

The Swedish Council Presidency and the EU institutions have an obligation to keep the EU’s citizens informed about the options and their consequences, every step of the way.

Ralf Grahn

Erkan is back

One of the most prolific Eurobloggers, Erkan Saka, has survived his military service and is back, with a new design for Erkan’s Field Diary, an excellent source on Turkish, European and world affairs.

Erkan belongs to the category of “must follow” bloggers.

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Vaclav Klaus forces EU Commission reduction?

Anders Selnes on the Swedish EU portal quotes EU Minister Cecilia Malmström saying that the regrettable refusal of Czech President Vaclav Klaus to sign the approved Lisbon Treaty may force the Swedish Council Presidency to present a “Plan B” with regard to the next EU Commission.

If the uncertainty continues until the European Council on 29 October 2009, Sweden has to present a reduction according to the Treaty of Nice, knowing that no member state wants to lose “its” Commissioner.


Under the current Treaty of Nice, the next Commission must be reduced. If the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, the heads of state or government of the EU member states have promised Ireland (and themselves) that every EU country will get a Commissioner.

Ralf Grahn

Germany ratifies EU Lisbon Treaty

According to EUbusiness 23 September 2009 Germany ratifies the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty: Federal President Horst Köhler has signed the ratification instrument, as attributed to a spokesman. (I found no confirmation on the President’s web site.)

If the information is correct, the purists may still argue that the ratification instrument has to deposited in Rome, for the ratification process to be complete, but does anyone doubt the ability of the German diplomatic service in this respect?


Three to go

After Germany, only three ratifications remain uncompleted:

• Ireland, where the Lisbon II referendum takes place on 2 October 2009, promising an Irish Commissioner and offering assurances on sensitive issues
• Poland, where President Lech Kaczynski has withheld his signature despite parliamentary approval of the Lisbon Treaty
• The Czech Republic, where a few defeated henchmen of President Vaclav Klaus do their utmost to paralyse the European Union by a new legal challenge

In addition, at sub-state level the Legal Committee of the Åland Parliament has still to produce a report on the application of the Lisbon Treaty in this autonomous region of Finland.

Ralf Grahn

New EU Commission delayed?

The BBC tells us that a ”Czech move could delay EU treaty” (22 September 2009). At least 17 Czech Senators are going to submit a petition to the Czech Constitutional Court, which “guesses” that it will need three or four months to settle the issue (although a full treaty review might take as much as nine months).


Czech Senate

The authors of The Federalist Papers saw the (then indirectly elected) Senate as a salutary check on the “mischievous effects of a mutable government”.

The Czech second chamber, the Senate, embodies this vision of prudence, in other words a break on legislative activism. Only one third of the Senators are elected every two years, for a period of six years. A majority system (first past the post) applies to the 81 Senators, elected from as many constituencies. A Senator must be at least forty years old.

However, in the case of the Treaty of Lisbon, both chambers of the Czech Parliament have approved the amending treaty, by qualified majorities, and prior to the votes the Constitutional Court had ruled that the treaty was compatible with the Constitution.


Czech Senate Lisbon vote

According to EurActiv (7 May 2009) the Czech Senate approved the Lisbon Treaty by 54 votes to 20.

The normal rule of parliamentary democracy is to vote and move on, but here a minority (21 per cent) of Senators is determined to pursue their obstructionist cause to the bitter end.


Immediate consequences for Europe

Both the Treaty of Nice and the Treaty of Lisbon require implementing decisions for the new Commission, different depending on the applicable treaty (and the Irish guarantees).

If the Irish approve the Lisbon Treaty in the 2 October 2009 referendum, the European Union would have been able to nominate, to approve and to appoint the new Commission, which should take office on 1 November 2009, almost in time.

For the European Union and its member states, President Vaclav Klaus and the defeated Czech Senators have turned anxiety ahead of the vote in Ireland into a severe headache for Europe.



The Swedish Council Presidency, the EU institutions and the member states have nine days, until 2 October 2009, to prepare their course of action with regard to the legal, political and practical problems.

If the Irish vote Yes – as all the member states hope – clear guidelines are needed to prevent paralysis of the European Union.

EU citizens have a right to be fully informed.

Ralf Grahn

Irish Lisbon treaty referendum: The facts

The mission of the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs is to advance Ireland's political and economic interests in the European Union and in the wider world, to promote Ireland's contribution to international peace, security and development both through the European Union and through active participation in international organisations, in particular the United Nations, to protect Irish citizens abroad, and to pursue reconciliation and partnership on the island of Ireland.


EU instrumental

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that much of Ireland’s capacity to pursue its interest hinges on its standing in the European Union and its relationship with the other EU member states.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, in daily contact with the EU institutions and the member states’ capitals, must be acutely aware of the European dimension of the Lisbon Treaty, approved by 26 national parliaments, but still hanging in the balance in Ireland.

A negative outcome in the Irish referendum on 2 October would be a major setback for the European Union, the other EU member states as well as for Ireland’s standing and interests.

Even without guarantees and assurances, any responsible government in Ireland would recommend a Yes vote, but governments also have obligations to inform the public in a factual and correct manner.


The Lisbon Treaty 2009 web pages of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs contain the relevant facts about the referendum issues, for the voters in Ireland and for other interested Europeans.

The pages are easy to navigate, and their contents are:

• Home (
• Legal Guarantees and Assurances
• Legal Guarantees and Assurances Explained
• Lisbon Treaty Explained
• Proposed Amendment to the Constitution
• Your Questions Answered
• 30 Minute Guide
• White Paper
• Publications
• Speeches & Media
• Related Documents
• Links
• Contact Us

In addition, there is a search function.

Further links on the thematic pages offer access to all the facts an informed voter can wish for, including the consolidated (readable) Treaty of Lisbon.


Another Department of Foreign Affairs web site,, offers general information about Ireland’s membership of the EU, with thematic pages on:

• Home – What’s new (
• The EU & You – How the EU is relevant to your life
• About the EU – History, how Ireland became a member, how the EU works
• Ireland & the EU – What EU membership means for Ireland
• The EU in the World – Foreign Policy, Development Aid, Peacekeeping
• Your Questions – Ask us a question; Frequently asked questions

These web pages offer readers suitable background information about European integration from an Irish perspective.


… and opinions

The Treaty of Lisbon is far from ideal, but what can we expect from a document which required unanimous agreement between 27 governments and approval in all the EU member states (where 26 national parliaments have given their consent)?

Still, the incremental improvements are not negligible. The European Union would work better under the Lisbon Treaty and the democratic legitimacy of EU legislation would increase.

For me as an EU citizen, reverting to the prospect of the unsatisfactory Treaty of Nice for the foreseeable future would be deeply disappointing.

I hope that on 2 October 2009 the Irish voters turn out a resounding Yes for the future of Europe and for Ireland’s future in Europe.

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 22 September 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: US neocon leadership for Europe

Ireland has sought and received assurances that the Treaty of Lisbon does not affect or prejudice Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality.

The assurances do not alter the Lisbon Treaty, but they became a political necessity due to misleading propaganda by No campaigners ahead of the first referendum.

The guarantees are based on mutual understanding: Ireland is free to remain neutral, but it allows its European partners to develop their common foreign, security and defence policies.


US neoconservative leadership

For the inimitable Sally McNamara of the Heritage Foundation, any independent European foreign policy action is a direct threat to American hegemony. “Lisbon Adds To Prague’s Tough Week” (21 September 2009) on The Foundry blog is tellingly posted under American Leadership (as seen by unreformed neoconservatives at war with the Obama administration).

Freedom of opinion applies to all, including McNamara, but even political propaganda should adhere to facts.

She tells us that French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened Prague with “consequences” of delaying ratification of the Lisbon Treaty “making the statement completely unprompted”.

Howcome unprompted?

The Lisbon Treaty was agreed between 27 EU member state governments, and it has been approved by 26 national parliaments. The Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer had informed the EU heads of state or government that President Vaclav Klaus refuses to sign the ratification instrument despite the qualified majority approvals by both houses of the Czech Parliament, and that some of Klaus’ followers – defeated in the parliamentary arena – have decided to launch a new legal challenge to the Lisbon Treaty, already cleared by the Czech Constitutional Court ahead of the ratification votes.

The real motive for Klaus and his fringe of supporters seems to be to delay the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, when the European Union needs a new Commission in place from 1 November 2009.

It can hardly come as a surprise, if the governments of the EU member states are furious at these disruptive tactics.

According to McNamara, “(i)t is not for President Sarkozy or anyone to threaten Prague for carrying out its constitutional obligations”.

But President Sarkozy explicitly reacted against the harmful consequences of President Vaclav Klaus not fulfilling his constitutional obligations.

Although the constitutional mess is an internal Czech problem, it clearly affects the European Union and its member states (much more directly than the United States of America).

It is only natural that European leaders discuss common concerns, and it is self-evident that the more or less constructive actions by member states influence their standing with other EU member states.

In order to promote their interests, the EU member states need the trust and support of their fellow members.


UK EU referendum

According to Sally McNamara, “David Cameron has rightly promised to hold the referendum on the Treaty”.

What is “right” about a referendum?

Is it a principled stand? Does McNamara propagate the principle of plebiscites for all international treaties, everywhere (including the USA)?

McNamara disregards the fact that in the United Kingdom, both Houses of Parliament have approved the Lisbon Treaty, and it has been formally ratified. In the home of parliamentary supremacy, this is the supreme measure of legitimacy, isn’t it?

What would it mean for the credibility of Britain and how would it affect its relations with Europe, if the United Kingdom not only withdraws from the Lisbon Treaty, but prevents the other EU member states from reforming the European Union?

David Cameron and William Hague are wrong in promising a belated referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. It could harm the European Union as a whole, and it would certainly poison the UK’s relations with its European partners for a long time to come.

If the Conservative leadership and the British public oppose deeper European integration for the UK, they should draw the conclusions without damaging the rest of Europe – exactly as the Irish government. “Live and let live.”

If the United Kingdom is unwilling or unable to participate in a constructive manner in European integration, the less harmful way is for Britain to take the fundamental decision: In or Out?

A referendum on EU membership would legitimise Britain’s international position, without harming the other member states or the European Union as a whole.

This would do “the rest of Europe a great service”.


The Lisbon Treaty as well as the guarantees and assurances offer Ireland all it needs for a confident Yes vote on 2 October 2009.

A No vote would be a gift to US neocons, UK Tories and disruptive figures like Vaclav Klaus. A No vote is hardly a “neutral” choice.

Ralf Grahn

Monday 21 September 2009

Lisbon Treaty ratification: Loose ends and cannons

The EU treaty reform process, which (re)started in December 2000 in Nice, and the ratification marathons expose the brittle structure of the European Union, still mired in the world of international treaties.

The Lisbon Treaty incrementally improves the functioning and the democratic legitimacy of the European Union, to the extent that the governments of 27 member states have been able to agree unanimously.

To date 26 national parliaments have approved the amending Lisbon Treaty, but there are still some loose ends and some loose cannons around at this critical juncture, when a new Commission should be able to take over from 1 November 2009.



The Irish government has secured a “better deal”, which guarantees a Commissioner from every member state and clarifies a number of sensitive issues. This is the new basis for the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, which takes place on 2 October 2009.

If the Irish vote Yes, the democratic legitimacy of the Lisbon Treaty is secured in the only remaining member state, and the Swedish Council Presidency has no more excuses for keeping the lid on open preparation for the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.

If the No vote wins, the immediate consequence is that the European Union reverts to the Treaty of Nice, with a smaller Commission, but long term the debate about a smaller and more effective EU gains momentum, given the inherent weaknesses of the existing EU structures.



After the judgment of the German Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundestag (directly elected German Parliament) and the Bundesrat (chamber of the Länder) have adopted new accompanying legislation, which has cleared the way for the Federal President Horst Köhler to formally ratify the Treaty of Lisbon.

President Köhler will probably sign the German ratification instrument without delay, which will tie up one loose end.



The Polish Parliament has approved the Treaty of Lisbon, but the Polish President Lech Kaczynski is situated somewhere between a loose end and a loose cannon.

He supervised the treaty negotiations, led by his twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski (Prime Minister still in November 2007), but he has been politicking by refusing to sign the ratification instrument.

President Kaczynski has made his signature dependent on the ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court (cleared) and the Irish referendum, so if the outcome in Ireland on 2 October 2009 is positive, he will have run out of excuses for procrastination.


Czech Republic

President Vaclav Klaus’ vitriolic opposition to European integration is well known, and he has a certain following in his former party, the Civic Democrats (ODS).

The Czech Constitutional Court ruled that the Lisbon Treaty was compatible with the Constitution, before both chambers of the Czech Parliament approved the treaty after an unedifying process of parliamentary manoeuvring.

Defeated Czech parliamentarians have now decided to launch a new legal challenge, in order to offer President Klaus an excuse to withhold his signature and to keep the European Union in limbo, despite the need for a new Commission and clarity concerning the implementation measures.

We do not know when the new Commission will be appointed, or under which treaty, but if the Czech Republic is the cause of the problem, the rest of the European Union needs to act firmly. The Council, the nominee for Commission President and the European Parliament can start by awarding the Commissioner for multilingualism to the Czech Republic (if it gets a Commissioner under the rules in force at the time).

Because the other member states cannot solve the Czech constitutional mess, the Czech Republic should be treated in accordance with the harm it causes the European Union.


Åland Islands

Finland has formally ratified the Lisbon Treaty, but its autonomous province Åland keeps playing for further concessions from the Finnish government. The Legal Committee of the Åland Parliament (Ålands lagting) has still not produced a report on the approval of the Lisbon Treaty, regarding its application in the province.

As long as the Lisbon Treaty has not entered into force, the Åland politicians can continue their quest, but if the last deposition instrument is deposited in Rome, time will run short for a definitive answer. (The Lisbon Treaty enters into force on the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument of ratification by the last signatory State to take this step).

If the Lisbon Treaty supersedes the Nice Treaty, without being applicable in the Åland Islands, the legal situation becomes interesting. Finland would have to notify the restricted geographical application, but for Åland it would mean having no legal relationship with the European Union. Åland would become a “Greenland” by default, less than a third country, because it is not a state in its own right.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 20 September 2009

And the next EU Commissioner for multilingualism is …

When Bulgaria and Romania became members of the European Union on 1 January 2007 – well into the term of the first Barroso Commission – Meglena Kuneva from Bulgaria became Commissioner for consumer protection and the Romanian Leonard Orban was made the first Commissioner for multilingualism.

Consumer protection is potentially important for 500 million consumers in the European Union and the European Economic Area, but from an administrative point of view this field can only try to influence internal market legislation, not shape it. Supporting, supplementing and monitoring activities offer the Commissioner a modicum of visibility.

Through no fault of Orban, the Commission post for multilingualism became a byword for the “bloated” Commission the current Nice Treaty and the amending Lisbon Treaty wanted to trim in a union with 27 member states (and potentially more).

The word “multilingualism” does not appear in the existing treaties, although languages are important for the European Union and its citizens: treaty languages, official languages, working languages, translation, interpretation, publishing, cross-border communication, language teaching, language learning, business opportunities…


According to merit

In the Czech Republic, President Vaclav Klaus has opposed the will of the Parliament by refusing to sign the ratification instrument of the Lisbon Treaty, and a supporting fringe of supporters among the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) – defeated in the democratic arena after a protracted circus - have promised to delay ratification by a new legal challenge against the amending treaty, once cleared by the Constitutional Court.

They do not expect to win their legal challenge, just to sabotage the ratification process.

The Czech situation is partly an internal constitutional mess, but it has implications for the rest of Europe.

The European Union is structurally about as robust as a house of cards – founded on multiple unanimity requirements. In order to function even tolerably, the EU needs a high degree of cooperation between the member states.

Destructive behaviour should not go unnoticed. Countries should be judged on their merits.

If the Czech constitutional system is unable to sort out the ratification issue without delay, the Czech Commissioner should be awarded the multilingualism portfolio 2009 (if there is going to be a Czech Commissioner).

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Even if the supporters of ex-leader Vaclav Klaus are a fringe group within the ODS, the Civic Democrats in the European Parliament as a whole have joined the new anti-European political group the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), together with the UK Conservative Party of David Cameron and William Hague and the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) of the Kaczynski twins.

Saturday 19 September 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: Rocky road to Rome

The delayed entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon causes the European Union a number of problems.

José Manuel Barroso was nominated by the heads of state or government of the EU member states, and the nomination was approved by the European Parliament in accordance with the Treaty of Nice (Article 214(2) TEC), although it is possible that the new President of the Commission and his Commission are going to serve under the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The next step is to appoint the members of the Commission, which should take over on 1 November 2009 (2003 Accession Treaty), but we don’t even know the future size of the Commission: Nice or Lisbon?

Will the old and weary Commission be conscripted for an indefinite period of service, until the legal base for the new one is sorted out? Meaningful legislative activity ended last spring, well before the European Parliament elections…

Ahead of the Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum on 2 October 2009, the member states have kept the lid on public discussion about the decisions to take if the amending treaty enters into force.

The most obvious ones are the elections of the President of the European Council and the “double-hatted” High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Given the uncertain situation, the member states have not presented proposals concerning the rights and obligations of the new office-holders to the public.

The discussions about candidates are based on rumour and speculation, instead of open discussion about merits.

The lack of public discussion affects the launch of the European External Action Service as well, an important instrument for more coherent European diplomatic action.

The same goes for the shift from the current system of Council Presidencies to the Lisbon order with permanent chairs for the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council. If, when and how?

The EU institutions need to revise their Rules of Procedure and to make a number of implementing decisions, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, but even the generally open Swedish Council Presidency has avoided public discussion on these matters. (Only the European Parliament has approved new provisions to its Rules of Procedure, contingent on the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, but new agreements are needed between the institutions.)


Despite agreement by 27 national governments and approval by 26 national parliaments, until all the ratification instruments have been deposited in Rome, the European Union will continue to act as a zombie, and European citizens will be kept in the dark.

All eyes are on the Irish voters to break the deadlock on 2 October 2009.

Ralf Grahn

Friday 18 September 2009

What the Lisbon Treaty changes (for Ireland)

On Bloggers for Europe, Jason O’Mahony wrote a post called ”5 Reasons to vote yes including a polar bear. And the Da Vinci Code” (15 September 2009).

O’Mahony’s fourth point made the following statement about the Lisbon Treaty:

“It improves the EU in loads of technical ways which you really don't want me to list here. I mean, we'll get them for you if you want, but only if you promise to read them. There'll be a test.”


Unfazed by the humoristic vein, two readers asked to see the list (without promising to read it or to take part in the test).

Let me say that there is a wealth of information out there about the differences and similarities between the existing Treaty of Nice and the amending Treaty of Lisbon (including the novel Irish guarantees), but it may be better to take up the challenge by the readers than to allow the impression that the task is impossible.

If there is demand for a detailed view, it should be satisfied, although it is easy to see why the comments section of a blog post is not the ideal location.

The briefest detailed list I can remember is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO; London) Command paper 7311 “A comparative table of the current EC and EU Treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon” (January 2008).

For the technically inclined, the FCO managed to present the changes and similarities in telegraphic style on a mere 36 pages.


Having sifted through most of the amending Lisbon Treaty on my blog, Article by Article, I would say that the main issue concerning the Lisbon Treaty referendum is the following:

Do the Irish want to be fully engaged in a slightly improved and marginally more democratic European Union, as agreed between 27 national governments and approved by 26 national parliaments, or do they prefer to play into the hands of isolationist anti-European English Tories and UKIP Europhobes?

In addition to the institutional reforms and some substantial enhancements, the consolidated Lisbon Treaty improves the structure and readability compared to the Nice Treaty, by a more systematic approach and by cutting out deadwood, but that is primarily for the technically inclined.

Ralf Grahn

Thursday 17 September 2009

Spectacular EU quotes


Brussels Blogger picked up the PES leader Poul Rasmussen demanding top jobs for European socialists:

“(W)e insist on having the post of High Representative, or if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the European Council President. We have several excellent candidates for these positions.”


After the spectacular failure of the Party of European Socialists (PES) to put forward a candidate for the Commission Presidency ahead of the European Parliament elections in June 2009, we look forward to a presentation of these excellent candidates and an open selection of those the PES is going to propose to the European Council.


Julien Frisch offers us the following paragraph about the newly approved José Manuel Barroso:

“After he got elected today, Barroso said that he wants to work more closely with the European Parliament to make the Union a "European parliamentary democracy".”


Did Barroso really say that, and if he did, did he mean it?

I failed to find the quote in question, but would the anti-Europeans and Europhobics have voted for a Commission President with real democratic ambitions at the European level?

Logically, Barroso would part from his bland political programme and embark on a revolutionary course, leading to a Convention aiming at a European federation, built on its citizens – liberté, fraternité, egalite and all that.

We, the people, eagerly await the next steps (or clarifications).

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Bloggers for Europe

Bloggers for Europe joins some of the leading lights among Irish Eurobloggers:

Jason O’Mahony

Stephen Spillane and

Conor Slowey (The European Citizen)

There are also two bloggers, who are new to me:

Owen Rooney (Conduct Unbecoming) and

Hugh Hamill

This is how these Bloggers for Europe present themselves:

“Bloggers For Europe is a group blog covering the second Lisbon referendum in Ireland. It was set up by bloggers from throughout the country who felt that there was a need for a more organised online presence from pro-Lisbon activists, and decided to create a one-stop-shop for news and commentary. Although we're all looking to secure a Yes vote in the referendum, we still hope to provide enough news and debate to make the blog a worthwhile destination for anyone who's interested in Lisbon and the campaigns surrounding it.”


In my humble opinion, an active Ireland in an improved European Union is a better option for the Irish than Ireland as a satellite to an anti-European Conservative government in Britain. Thus, I wish Bloggers for Europe the best of luck.

Ralf Grahn

Ireland for Europe blog

For an outside observer like me it would be an anomaly if pro-European Ireland ended up with a complete opt-out from the Lisbon Treaty and mentally even farther away from the European Union than Britain.

Given the less than brilliant performance of the pro-Lisbon political class ahead of the first referendum, active citizens have seen the need to argue the case for Ireland’s future in Europe.

One such group is ‘Ireland for Europe’, a new independent and non-party campaign strongly committed to promoting a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The blog is updated daily with facts and views to support active Irish engagement in Europe and to dispel distorted anti-European claims.

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Les Thibault

In 1937 Roger Martin du Gard received the Nobel Prize in literature for his monumental work Les Thibault.

War and peace, religion, politics, economics, society, human relations and individual responsibility form a vast canvas for thoughts about Europe – past, present and future.

Les Thibault is available from Gallimard (“Folio”) in three inexpensive pocket volumes:
• I Les cahier gris – Le pénitencier – La belle saison – La consultation – La Sorellina
• II La mort du père – L’été 1914
• III L’été 1914 (suite et fin) – Épilogue
Why do we need a European federation?

Ralf Grahn

Saturday 5 September 2009

Ireland from megaliths to the second Lisbon Treaty referendum

The EU Treaty of Lisbon was agreed among 27 national governments and it has been approved by 26 national parliaments. Ireland is different: The existing interpretation is that this international treaty requires a referendum and the supposedly pro-European Irish voters baffled the rest of Europe by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008.

In a few weeks time, the Irish are going to vote again, with assurances that each member state will retain a Commissioner and with clarifications regarding issues, which caused confusion ahead of the first referendum.

In order to understand a bit more about Ireland and the Irish, I found an excellent book in French: Histoire de l’Irlande et des Irlandais, by Pierre Joannon. (Éditions Perrin, 2009, 825 pages, 12 €).

This history guides the reader from the age of the monoliths to about 2005. The fresh pocket edition adds a chapter (Épilogue provisiore), which takes us to the present days of the wounded Celtic Tiger and to the threshold of the second Lisbon referendum.

As a non-expert reader, I can only offer my impression: Joannon manages to combine his deep sympathy for the Irish with a scrupulous effort to present the facts correctly. A great read for Europeans keen to understand more about Erin, and why not for the Irish themselves at their historic crossroads, with prosperity and Europe in the balance.

Ralf Grahn