Recently [June 12], Irish voters rejected the latest treaty
aimed at streamlining the work of the European Union. What are the provisions of the Lisbon
treaty and the ramifications for Europe of the Irish 'No' vote?
The Lisbon Treaty was signed in December 2007 and is the European
Union's latest attempt to make the E.U. a simpler, more transparent and
more efficient organization.
Charles Kupchan with the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations
says the idea for the treaty came about after voters in France and The
Netherlands rejected a European Constitution in 2005.
"And then the E.U. came together and through some very difficult
negotiations came up with a streamlined version of the Constitution and
they called it 'The Reform Treaty' and then 'The Lisbon Treaty'. It was
downgraded from constitution to treaty, in part, to make it pass more
easily through ratification processes," says Kupchan.
Hugo Brady at the Center for European Reform in London says the new
treaty is significant in three areas. The first, he says, is that the
pact simplifies complicated E.U. voting procedures on key European issues.
"The second is the specific area of foreign policy, where the treaty
merges certain bureaucracies together and creates a more powerful,
single E.U. representative for foreign policy, who is a kind of foreign
minister type character supported by a sort of diplomatic service into
which all the member states would put some of their most skilled and
talented diplomats," says Brady. "And the third bit are policies relating to
terrorism, crime and illegal immigration, in which the E.U. has a kind
of peripheral presence right now. But if the treaty were passed, they
would become central areas of E.U. competence and then you could expect
to see a lot more E.U. activity in those areas."
An Irish Blow
Under E.U. rules, all 27 member nations of the European Union must
ratify the treaty for it to come into force. So far, 19 countries have
done so with their parliaments approving the Lisbon Treaty.
But on June 12, citizens in Ireland dealt the European Union and the
treaty a severe blow when they voted in a referendum to reject the
accord. Ireland is the only country that requires a popular vote on
Analyst Hugo Brady says there are several reasons for the Irish "No" vote. "The great majority of people didn't actually understand the treaty and
they felt they had not been given sufficient time to study it. And
nobody signs a blank contract, so they basically were unwilling to
change Ireland's constitution. It's important to remember the
referendum question is actually: 'Do you want to change Ireland's
constitution to allow it to ratify the Lisbon Treaty?' -- the so-called
28th Amendment to the Irish Constitution. So they basically felt that
they were not in a position to take a step like that without the proper
information," says Brady. "I think people in general were concerned about a loss of
power and identity for Ireland. And I think that is usually the
overriding concern in these areas. They simply were not reassured
sufficiently by their politicians."
Brady says the Irish government and all of the major opposition
political parties were in favor of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty.
"Their basic marketing message was: 'Trust us, we're your politicians.'"
He says that strategy obviously failed.
"There was also this sense that if all of the political establishment
are for it, and we don't understand it and have no instinct for what's
going on, there must be some kind of conspiracy here. And it's probably
best to say, 'No.'"
Now the question facing European leaders is what to do next and whether
there is any way to salvage the Lisbon Treaty given the strong negative
response from the Irish.
Dominique Moisi with the Paris-based French Institute for International
Relations says a cooling off period is needed.
"I don't think it [i.e., the Lisbon Treaty] can be resuscitated right
now. Maybe the best solution is to freeze the dilemma for a while and
hope that the attitude of Europeans to Europe will improve because the
economic situation will improve because there will be new leaders," says Moisi. "But
there is very little we can do. I mean, we can't simply act as if the
Irish people had not pronounced themselves in the clearest and most
Analysts say one possible scenario is for countries that have not yet
ratified the treaty to do so, despite the negative Irish vote.
Analyst Hugo Brady says that could be dangerous.
"There are also problems ratifying in the Czech Republic and Poland,
whose presidents are both against the treaty and would rather not sign
it. And in the Czech Republic in particular, there is a legal case
pending in October on the constitutionality of the treaty as it regards
the Czech Republic's constitution. So that will be a key milestone for
the treaty," says Brady. "If another country rejects it, then it really is dead."
Brady says another possibility would be for the Irish to attempt a
"So a lot rides on whether or not the Irish are willing to vote again,
which would be extremely difficult politically for their government to
do. But maybe that's a possibility, since they've done it before with
another treaty -- the Nice Treaty -- the one which came before this one
-- and if provided another country like the Czech Republic, in this
case, doesn't reject it," says Brady.
Analysts are quick to point out that Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon
Treaty does not mean an end to the European Union. It will continue to
function under existing legislation -- the 2001 Nice Treaty. But
experts say the political crisis will force E.U. leaders to reassess
some of the fundamental principles governing the European Union.
One principle is whether to continue E.U. enlargement. Hugo Brady says
French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who takes over the E.U. presidency
for six months beginning in July -- already has said that without the
Lisbon Treaty, new membership is out of the question.
"So that means that one of the E.U.'s most useful policies that has
stabilized so much of Europe, especially since the 1990s and the fall of
the Berlin Wall, is no longer available to the E.U. And that will be a
serious blow to the E.U.'s already fairly fragile power," says Brady.
Analysts say as a result of the Irish vote, for the foreseeable future,
Europe could be consumed by internal issues rather than be fully engaged
in international affairs.
This story was first broadcast
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