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The Lisbon Treaty

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While Europe is trying more and more to build and assert itself in the world, here is that the European Union released on December 13, 2007, a new treaty named “Lisbon Treaty”. The text was intended to transform the institutional architecture of the EU and had to be ratified by the 27 Member States. Within Europe, many countries ratified the Treaty… with the exception of Ireland, which rejected the text in a referendum on 12 June 2008. A look back at the Irish “no” vote, its consequences and the future prospects of the text…


The Reasons for the Irish No as of 12 June 2008

The reasons for the no vote in Ireland are numerous, and have been clearly identified by the EU. First of all, the text is criticised for being too opaque: more than 80% of Irish people seem not to understand the objective of the Treaty, nor its primary meaning… (This problem has, moreover, been detected in the majority of EU Member States). (This problem has in fact been detected in the majority of EU Member States). Many then reproach the media for not having sufficiently raised public awareness of what is at stake in the text, if only by popularising the comments.

In addition to this, there are a few points of disagreement, where the Irish see the Lisbon Treaty as the announced end of their attractive economic policy. At that time, the Celtic Tiger was the country’s main economic engine, and many foreign companies voluntarily set up business in Ireland, feeding the Irish economic machine. For the Irish people, the abolition of this small tax haven would represent a veritable annihilation of their growth.

Finally, the Irish seemed hostile to reducing the number of European Commissioners. They would clearly have preferred to keep one official representative per state.

A Time for Concessions

A few months after Ireland’s deafening no, Brian Cowen decided to meet with his European counterparts to rethink the issue of the Lisbon Treaty. After a European Council full of discussion and concessions, the EU is now committed to changing a few points in the Treaty to encourage a new Irish vote.

Among the main points that were discussed again, the E.U. committed itself to the following:

  • to preserve Ireland’s economic and fiscal advantages
  • to maintain one official representative per Member State for each Member State
  • to grant Ireland complete neutrality in the EU’s military defence policy.
  • to leave Ireland the right to manage its family policy as it sees fit, as well as its decisions on sensitive issues such as the anti-abortion policy now in force in the Republic of Ireland.

These negotiations seem to satisfy everyone, and Brian Cowen pledged to make the Irish more aware of the Lisbon Treaty.

Outlook: Will the October 2009 vote be in favour of the Treaty?

In the meantime, with the new Irish vote scheduled for autumn 2009, Ireland is going through one of the most severe economic crises Ireland has ever experienced. Of course, other countries in Europe are particularly affected, but Ireland is at the top of the list of countries most in difficulty. Unemployment is rising, property prices are falling and many companies are going bankrupt. Many large foreign companies such as DELL decided to relocate their productions originally located in Ireland, to move them to more favourable countries such as Poland.

Faced with this situation, the vote on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland should see a major turnaround. The Irish people have clearly seen the value of being supported by the European Union and have already demonstrated their willingness to adhere to the Lisbon Treaty through numerous opinion polls.

So the future will tell…