News / Europe

EU Treaty Has Long Road Ahead

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves an EU summit in Brussels on December 9, 2011.
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves an EU summit in Brussels on December 9, 2011.
Dominic Laurie

Analysts are saying the new EU treaty will leave the UK isolated within Europe. But how much of a done deal is it? Ireland is one of the 26 countries that has said it will push ahead with the treaty. But already its European Affairs Minister has said Friday that country could require a referendum to push it through. And it's far from certain people will say yes.

"Across the world, people will see that we've learned from mistakes made in the past - that credibility is the top priority," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She joined other European leaders in agreeing that this treaty pushes Europe to a more united future.

All except one country, Britain, which refused to sign off on the deal, because it thought it failed to protect its key financial services industry.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "What was on offer is not in Britain's interest, so I didn't agree to it."

However the leaders of 26 countries did feel it was in their sovereign interest.

Agreement between politicians is one thing. Passing a new treaty into law is another. Now is the difficult part.

Some countries will decide that parliamentary approval will be enough. However, others though may decide the treaty needs to be put to the popular vote.

Ireland’s Europe minister Lucinda Creighton said Friday there was a 50-50 chance the treaty will be put to a referendum. The government will make that decision in the next couple of weeks.

Ireland's Ciarán Toland led the campaign in favor of the last two big EU treaties to be put to the Irish people. He’s says it’s too early to say whether one will be called now.

"From a political pint of view, a referendum could be beneficial," said Toland.  "There is no question that a referendum in the present Irish context would be difficult to pass, but also there are many reasons why the Irish people would respond favorably to such a referendum"

The trouble for the Irish government is that EU referendums have proved to be a tricky business in recent years.

The Nice treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon one in 2007 were both rejected the first time around before modifications and arm-twisting secured the passing of both the second time around.

The last two referendums passed when the economy was still growing in Ireland. But now, with the economy languishing, the public may be even more reluctant to vote for more EU integration.

In Dublin, department stores are full of discount price tags.  Market vendors, too, are suffering.

Two in central Dublin says times are tough.

"They're looking for things like 10 euro 20 euro, that's it, you know," said one.

Which is a change from before...

"Ah, sure, like you know, six, 10 years, six years ago there would be a 40-50 euro spend, you know," said another vendor. "But it's still hard."

Despite the euro currency’s recent trouble, there are still several countries wanting to join. Only on Friday, Croatia finally signed its accession treaty to become the 28th member of the EU. With stagnating economy, can Ireland afford not to be a full member of the club?

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