IMPERIAL BRUSSELS RISKS A REBELLION
Mary Ellen Synon
WELCOME to the European Union's version of democracy: Keep voting until you get it right. It is jaw-droppingly cynical but utterly predictable because Brussels has got away with it before.
When the Irish voted No on the Nice Treaty in 2001, Brussels strong-armed the government into agreeing a second referendum.
They got a Yes, mostly because at that time the Irish were receiving a flood of EU money and Brussels made voters afraid that a second No would cut off the cash.
That tactic won't work this time because now all that money is flooding not to Dublin, but into Eastern Europe.
So the Brussels elite have been threatening that Ireland might be forced out of the EU and 'isolated' if it does not change its mind.
Last June's No vote was a stunning victory for people power, conducted in the face of a relentless Yes campaign by the Irish government and the state broadcaster RTE.
Now, scandalously, Prime Minister Brian Cowen has refused to defend his own nation's vote and agreed to force the Irish to run a second referendum before the end of October.
In return, the EU has given him a list of new 'legal guarantees' to present to the Irish on issues that he claims caused the voters to say No: Taxation, neutrality and abortion.
Yet the outcome is far from certain. The Irish know they are being bullied and they don't like it. The more imperial Brussels gets, the more the Irish remember their rebel spirit.
These days, they connect the EU with floods of immigrants, not floods of cash. Sixteen per cent of the workforce are now foreign.
The voters are also being warned by lawyers on the No side that the 'legal guarantees' being offered would not stand up in the European Court of Justice.
In addition, Mr Cowen's deeply unpopular government is being held responsible for the recession.
Then there is Declan Ganley, the businessman who emerged as a stunningly effective leader of the NO campaign. Dublin has reason to be afraid of him and his Libertas party.
Even Ireland's own European Commissioner has admitted that last time Ganley won the argument 'because the Irish people listened to him more than to anybody else'.
The government's response to Ganley has been to smear him, implying he had shadowy connections. But government ministers have been unable to produce any evidence.
[And the US Congress has scornfully rebutted all such unfounded allegations -cs]
Maybe the Irish government and their masters in Brussels are about to learn what generations of weary Imperial British governments learned long ago: Sometimes the Irish say NO and mean it,
CONSERVATIVE HOME Blog 12.12.08
THE IRISH PEOPLE WERE TOLD THEY HAD TO VOTE AGAIN ON LISBON
It's far from clear that
Dublin's unpopular government
can persuade the Irish to change their vote but William Hague noted the command to vote again as dangerously undemocratic:
"Trying to force the Lisbon Treaty down the Irish people’s throats again is not only a dangerous distraction from that agenda, it is profoundly undemocratic. It is no wonder that the EU is seen as increasingly unaccountable and out of touch if it won’t listen to what people are actually saying. Gordon Brown goes to this summit without any democratic mandate on the Lisbon Treaty. If our unelected Prime Minister insists on forcing the Irish people to vote twice, the case for letting the British people vote once will be morally unanswerable.”
THE TIMES - Leader 12.12.08
No still means No
The EU has many challenges, chief among them understanding democracy
Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach, has told his fellow European leaders that he does not intend to take “no” for an answer from Ireland's voters. Instead he has committed himself, a second time, to seeking ratification of the Lisbon treaty that they rejected by 53.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent six months ago.
Mr Cowen could have disgraced himself more thoroughly by ignoring Ireland's first referendum on the Lisbon treaty altogether. But his decision to heed European blandishments rather than his own citizens' ballots still shows, as the leader of the Irish “no” campaign has said, contempt for the democratic process. It is also a grave and unnecessary indictment of the EU's current priorities, which in more outward-looking eras have unquestionably been a force for good. If a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty does take place, it deserves to be resoundingly rejected once again.
Ireland's Constitution - and only Ireland's - requires EU treaties to be ratified by referendum: hence the first vote on the Lisbon treaty in June. A committee of Irish MPs has since decided that a second referendum would be legal. But the first was legal, too, and it does not take a committee to point out that Mr Cowen and the “yes” campaign have already mocked their Constitution and insulted Ireland's voters by holding a perfectly legitimate and transparent referendum and refusing to abide by its result.
Dick Roche, the Irish European Affairs Minister, has claimed that “from a constitutional point of view there's no other choice than a second referendum”. He could hardly be more wrong. The obvious choice of respecting the voters' first verdict is difficult but right.
What would it mean in practice? Unratified by Ireland, the Lisbon treaty would probably also remain unratified by Poland and the Czech Republic. It could not come into force, and the “streamlining” of European decision-making that its proponents promised would not happen.
There is no question that the EU's sudden expansion in the past four years has rendered it unwieldy as a global political player and poorly balanced as an economic unit. It is possible, though not obvious, that the Lisbon treaty's proposed shrinking of the EU's executive might have eased the path to consensus on apparently intractable issues such as climate change mitigation and co-ordinated fiscal rescue packages.
But Ireland's voters decided that the price in sovereignty and influence was too high. They worried that streamlining in principle would mean bulldozing in practice, especially on tax and social policies, and they did not relish losing a commissioner. Brussels' response to Dublin's lobbying since the June vote has been dramatic: José Manuel Barroso, the Commission's President, and Nicolas Sarkozy, current President of the European Council, have reversed themselves on the treaty's central proposal and promised every member state its own commissioner after all.
It is hard to imagine a more compelling proof that this treaty's supposed benefits are not essential. Meanwhile, Europe's - and Mr Cowen's - impatience with Ireland's voters have revealed a basic misunderstanding of democracy next to which the EU's other problems pale. Europe can and must thrive as a coaltion of the willing. That is not what the Lisbon treaty promises to build.
FINANCIAL TIMES brusselsblog 12.12.08
Is it sneaky to sneak a treaty through a Croatian back door?
So, there is to be another Irish referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon treaty - probably in September or October 2009. When the news emerged at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, I didn’t hear anyone cheering.
This wasn’t only because no one can confidently predict that the Irish will vote Yes next time. Another reason is that the delicate, behind-the-scenes negotiations that have gone on to permit the second referendum are not, in fact, finished.
Ireland will get its concessions - on taxation, abortion law, neutrality and the right to keep a seat on the European Commission. But the unanswered question is: What form should these concessions take? A straightforward declaration by all EU leaders won’t be enough, because it may not be legally binding.
On the other hand, if the concessions to Ireland were wrapped into Croatia’s EU accession treaty (Croatia is aiming to conclude its membership negotiations by the end of 2009), that may be no good, either.
That’s because all other EU countries will have to approve Croatia’s accession treaty, probably during 2010. If this document included extra language on concessions to Ireland, it would look as if the EU was trying to sneak changes to the Lisbon treaty through a back door.
In the UK, but possibly in other countries, too, cries would go up for a fresh look at the Lisbon treaty as a whole. And you can imagine the mayhem if all this were happening in mid-2010 and the fiercely anti-Lisbon Tories had by then replaced the ruling Labour party in the UK after winning an election. To the horror of the UK’s EU partners, the Tories might find a way to scupper the Lisbon treaty.
It is , of course, possible to imagine another scenario in which it would make no difference at all what the Tories were to do. And that is if the Irish were to vote No for a second time. The tension is unbearable…