Ireland Rejects Treaty of Lisbon
It’s received precious little notice here in the States but Irish voters have rejected the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU’s latest move towards reform and greater consolidation of power in Brussels:
DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland’s voters have rejected the European Union reform treaty, a blueprint for modernizing the 27-nation bloc that cannot become law without Irish approval, electoral officials said Friday.
In a major blow to the EU, 53.4 percent of Irish voters said no to the treaty. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen now will join other EU leaders at a summit next week to try to negotiate a new way forward.
Anti-treaty groups from the far left and right mobilized “no” voters by claiming that the treaty would empower EU chiefs in Brussels, Belgium, to force Ireland to change core policies — including its low business tax rates, its military neutrality and its ban on abortion.
“This is a very clear and loud voice that has been sent yet again by citizens of Europe rejecting the anti-democratic nature of Brussels governance,” said Declan Ganley, leader of Libertas, the most prominent anti-treaty campaign group in Ireland.
The euro common currency fell to a one-month low on the news.
Ireland, one of the greatest beneficiaries of EU largesse, is hardly hostile to the EU. With generous EU grants Ireland has been transformed from one of Europe’s poorest countries to one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Rejection of the treaty was probably due to some combination of a reassertion of Ireland’s pride in its own distinctive institutions and the failure of proponents of the treaty to produce a convincing plain language explanation of the benefits of approving the treaty. The opaque bureaucratese of the treaty certainly made it impossible for the treaty’s text to speak for itself.
I’ve put additional thoughts on the implications of the rejection at The Glittering Eye.
UPDATE (James Joyner): Given that I’m now professionally an Atlanticist, I’m a bit torn on this. I am, however, unreservedly amused at David Kopel‘s headline, “How the Irish Saved Civilization, Again.” And I agree with him on this point:
Treaty proponents lamented that Ireland, with only 1% of the EU population, could derail a 27-nation treaty. But the very fact that only 1% of the EU’s population was allowed to vote on a treaty which would massively reduce national sovereignty and democratic accountability was itself an illustration of the enormous “democratic deficit” of the EU in general, and the Lisbon Treaty in particular. According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Lisbon Treaty would be defeated in every EU nation if referenda were allowed.
I never liked the heavy-handed workaround of the Lisbon model, thinking that if the EU member states are going to cede significant sovereignty they ought at least do it in an open, transparent process.
The EU continues its eastward expansion, which I believe mostly good, partly by holding out the economic carrots of membership but partly, at least, by touting its “shared Western values.” It requires would-be members to jump through substantial hoops in order to get in accord. It’s only fitting, then, that it should abide by those same shared values in such an important process.
UPDATE (Dave Schuler)
I’ve found the complaints about how un-democratic the treaty being defeated by the Irish is being floated by supporters of the treaty enormously amusing. The reason that Ireland was the only country to vote the treaty down was that Ireland was the only country to hold a popular vote on the matter. The probability that a direct popular vote in all 27 EU countries would have resulted in the treaty being approved is, was, and always has been zero. Indeed, the only way the measure proceeded as far as it did was that the other EU countries’ governments avoided a popular vote.