Lisbon referendum

by Henry on June 10, 2008

I’m in Ireland at the moment, reintroducing the two year old to the country of his ancestors, and, more to the point, the delights of Andy Nolan’s sausages (if you’re ever passing through Kilcullen, and you’re not a vegetarian, you owe it to yourself to pick up a few pounds), and McCambridge’s brown-bread. But in between childcare responsibilities, I’ve been trying to piece together the debate over the upcoming referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty. Ireland is the only country where the public actually gets a vote on this Treaty, and there is a good chance that it will vote No (one recent opinion poll had the No side several points ahead; another had the Yes and No side neck-and-neck). If Ireland votes the Treaty down, it will fail, and nobody is quite sure what will happen next. More discussion of the specifics of the debate under the fold – I also have a more political-sciencey post on this over at The Monkey Cage.

First, there’s a far greater variety of voices on the No side in this referendum than in previous referendums on EU Treaty changes. It used to be that the lines of battle were fairly straightforward in these things. On the Yes side you always got the major political parties of right and center-left (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour), and on the No side, Sinn Fein, the Greens, and a fringe of wrap-the-green-flag-round-me nationalists and ultramontanist religious loons convinced that the EU is a plot intended to foist devil worship, abortion and gay divorce on the country (one of the more colorful proponents of this viewpoint claimed that the success of the referendum legalizing divorce some years ago resulted from the efforts of a ‘bunch of wife-swapping sodomites’) .

This time round, the Greens have switched sides and are advocating a Yes vote. But the No side of the debate have much better funding than ever before, thanks to Libertas, an organization set up by a businessman by the name of Declan Ganley. He appears to have made his money from a variety of somewhat mysterious ventures in Eastern Europe (Albania and the Baltics), and to be a principal one of the companies hovering around the Beltway looking for Iraq and homeland security related contracts. He’s put Euro 1.4 million into the No campaign – it isn’t clear to anyone whether this money is coming from his own pocket, unnamed third parties, or a combination of the same.

Second, various social parties are using the Treaty campaign to try to extract concessions from the government on only indirectly related matters. The main farmers’ organization said that it wouldn’t support the Treaty unless the government promised to veto the EU’s proposed WTO offer, which is likely to hurt Irish beef farmers. They got an apparent concession, but one that I suspect won’t count for much of anything should there in fact look to be a WTO deal on the table. The trade unions, for their part, sought with less success to extract a promise from the government on collective bargaining rights – they have been worried for a while that business (in particular foreign firms with Irish operations) are creating a de-unionized workforce. They don’t seem to have gotten very far.

Third, some of the arguments on the No side are unusually disingenuous this time around. The aforementioned Ganley has been claiming, on what basis I don’t know, that the Treaty’s charter of rights will make it possible to imprison three year olds. The Catholic ultras have been trying to rally the faithful by issuing minatory pamphlets warning of the threats to our morals – while some more liberal Catholic priests have been denouncing them, the bishops seem to be running scared. Most interesting, perhaps, is that a key argument of the No people has been that the Treaty somehow threatens Ireland’s taxation regime, which seeks to attract foreign investment by taxing corporate profits at very low rates. While the Treaty itself has nothing to say about taxation, there certainly is a lot of pressure from larger member states such as Germany to harmonize tax policy. I wouldn’t have thought myself that taxation benefits for large multinational corporations would be a rallying point for the general public. But perhaps I’m wrong.

Fourth, while the arguments from the Yes side aren’t disingenuous, they don’t precisely strike me as convincing either. There’s a lot of vague appeals to our European relationships, claims that a No vote would send us off into the desert and the like. There are remarkably few solid, focused claims regarding the specific benefits of the Treaty. This may in part be a product of the difficulties of getting people excited about a Treaty which is written in an exceedingly impenetrable form of legalese (this also may explain some of the hyperbole of the No side). But it also suggests to me that the traditional rhetorical tropes of the pro-European political elite are pretty well exhausted. During the post-war years, they relied on memories of war and stark economic need to justify political and economic integration. The memories and the needs have both faded, but the rhetoric hasn’t changed. I’ll probably have more to say about this, perhaps at greater length.

Fifth – the one really good argument that the No side have is the lack of democratic choice involved in the Treaty. Ireland is the only country in the EU where the public can vote directly on whether or not to accede to the Treaty. This is because Ireland’s political system requires that constitutional change (which Treaty accession is considered to be) receive majority support in a referendum. The population of other European countries, including countries that have voted on previous Treaty reforms, have no opportunity to vote this time around. The reason why is obvious – European political elites fear that the Treaty wouldn’t be passed by voters. But this also has very serious implications for democratic legitimacy. While the Treaty (and other Treaties) may seem dull and incomprehensible, they have important long-term political consequences. Denying people the opportunity to vote on their future is, quite simply, indefensible. More on this in my other post.

As for whether the referendum will pass or not – it’s dicey. The key determinant is whether the major government party, Fianna Fail, can mobilize its GOTV machine. More on Friday when the results are in …

{ 46 comments }

1

Maria 06.11.08 at 2:51 am

On the third point, political mobilisation on the corporate tax regime, I think you’d be surprised how widespread the concern about this is. Over the past 6 months there has been pretty constant newspaper coverage of the pressure from other EU member states to ‘level the playing field’ and increase our rates/reduce our competitive advantage.

Of course I don’t live in Ireland either, but I get the sense that there’s a lot of anxiety about what our ‘second act’ will be. i.e. we made some good calls about growth industries and created a pro-business tax environment. But those industries are maturing and going to lower labour cost environments, and the French and Germans are exerting terrific pressure to tax businesses as much as they do. Aside from the current economic difficulties, I think a lot of people are wondering what we’ll do next, so the corporate tax issue plays quite well.

Of course it has absolutely nothing directly to do with the Treaty, but that’s another story.

2

Maria 06.11.08 at 2:54 am

And I do wish I was at home to eat the Andy Nolan sausages, observe little Jack singing to the puppy, chasing the hens, and munching his way through the vegetable patch, oh, and to vote yes on Friday!

3

P O'Neill 06.11.08 at 3:58 am

My prediction is that the treaty will squeak through on a 2nd divorce referendum style margin i.e. something measured in the moderate tens of thousands of votes. So a scare but a win. One problem has been the FF GOTV operation — which they have motivated by putting pictures of their TDs on the Yes posters. A calculation that FG voters would swallow their irritation and still vote Yes.

4

Maria 06.11.08 at 5:07 am

Yep, me too, p. I think last week’s poll numbers may have frightened a few people out of complacency.

5

john m. (not the other guy who has appeared recently) 06.11.08 at 7:31 am

“…to vote yes on Friday!”

Maria, you’d be a day late. And, to reference to my earlier comment on your post on this, Henry says “There are remarkably few solid, focused claims regarding the specific benefits of the Treaty”.

I have a vote tomorrow and await the above from you or anybody else. I agree with all the weaknesses pointed out about the No people’s arguments and personally cannot abide most of the forces on the No side but nobody has seen fit to tell me why I should vote yes other than vague mutterings about how we’re all doomed if we don’t.

Put simply: Why would you vote yes? No answers in the negative please.

6

john b 06.11.08 at 7:47 am

Not quite answering John M’s question, but “because everyone you loathe is opposed to it, and everyone you respect is in favour of it” seems like a perfectly good reason to vote for something – even if you have no idea whatsoever what the ‘something’ is.

7

Henry 06.11.08 at 8:23 am

john m. – the personal reason why I would vote yes, if I still had a vote, is twofold. First, because it moves a lot of third pillar (i.e. justice and home affairs) issues into the Community. Effectively, this means that there will be some limits and oversight on a variety of very dodgy deals and tacit cooperation agreements that have been cooked up between the interior and home affairs ministries of the member states. Second, because I expect the charter of rights to have a significant effect on ECJ jurisprudence even if it doesn’t create justiciable rights – as a broad statement of the principles that the EU is founded on, it should push them to leaven the mostly pro-market integration principles of jurisprudence on which they have typically made decisions in the past. Depending on yer political viewpoint, you may find these points against rather than points in favour, but for me they are significant pros.

8

novakant 06.11.08 at 9:10 am

Thanks for the detailed rundown, Henry.

I have to disagree on point 5 though. Firstly, the bemoaned lack of democracy isn’t exclusive to EU treaties: voters are almost never directly involved in shaping any of the treaties their government signs. They also almost never get a say in any other big decisions their government makes, e.g. war, taxes, pensions, health-care. So the lack of direct democracy is inherent in representative democracy and not unique to EU politics. The difference lies less in the lack of democracy, but rather in the lack of transparency, accountability and general awareness of the issues. And this problem is caused as much by the EU as it is by the lethargy of the citizens. In fact the EU is trying to make people more aware of what is going on, but apart from the farmers, who are directly dependent on EU money for their livelihood, since many of them nowadays are more or less its employees or franchisees, nobody really seems to care about EU politics, it’s just perceived as too complex, boring and irrelevant. Only if we can change that attitude will the EU become a more democratic institution.

9

Martin Wisse 06.11.08 at 9:32 am


Ireland is the only country where the public actually gets a vote on this Treaty

…But don’t worry, once they reject this constitution treaty, they won’t get to vote next time it gets send back to the people for their approval. After all, we didn’t make this treaty for you to reject it.

10

mollymooly 06.11.08 at 11:03 am

1. One Yes argument has been that if we vote No, all the other countries will hate us.

Although it’s clear that Eurocrats and the policital elite will hate us, it’s not clear the ordinary Europeans will. They may salute us for doing what their own governments would not let them do. And being hated by the elite is not likely to frighten voters.

Also, there’s a hint that any hatred will be based on feeling that Ireland, having benefitted from EU handouts when it was poor, is unwilling to be a net contributor to the budget now that we’re rich and the new members are poor. This has only been hinted at in the campaign to avoid drawing attention to the fact that we will indeed be net contributors: although the Treaty won’t affect this fact, it’s still not a vote-winning meassage for the Yes side.

2. As with a lot of debates, there are mixed messages: arguing that making the right choice is nothing to worry about (Yes is just some shuffling of the legal furniture / No is things carrying on as before) and arguing that making the wrong choice is a disaster (No is we’re chucked out of the EU / Yes is we’re trapped in its legal chains).

These are confusing signals about its importance. And it’s depressing to be presented with a choice where the option is not to produce something wonderful but rather to avoid something terrible.

3. The Treaty is a repackaging of the failed Constitution, with a figleaf of minor adjustments. In a referendum, it feels like an affront to the will of the people. In a legislature, there is nothing abominable about a failed bill being represented: either with some adjustments to placate opponents; or unmodified, with opponents placated by external means.

4. It’s increasingly clear that Ireland’s model of ratification by referendum is untenable: even if this treaty scrapes through, will the EU want to stake the next one on the whims of a small country electorate? The catch-22 is that Ireland’s voters will never pass the referendum that would be required to end this model, even (or especially) if the alternative is a threat of expulsion from the EU. With hindsight, this should have been done in the original SEA referendum in 1987; that horse has bolted.

11

Michael 06.11.08 at 11:23 am

Apart from the strictly internal reasons, there is also the reason that the EU is creaking to a halt under the existing arrangement due to the fact we are 27 countries, and if we don’t reform it now it will be reformed later anyway. There is no other option.

I’m very unimpressed by the “no”, as it really does smack of hysteria and flat-Earthism.

Michael

12

mikey 06.11.08 at 12:06 pm

How nice to come home and find nothing has changed, that the ingredients of the Irish sausage are as consistent as the Ganly.

A small piece of gristle: From a report of a confidential document in the Guardian of last Sat. Paris wants to have common EU funding of military operations, A European fleet of military transport aircraft, European military satellites, a permanent European military defence college and the development of exchange programmes for officers among EU states. And Sarkozy strutting for the next 6 months.

This accords with the 20 pages in the Treaty dealing with military matters against 1/2 page of Greenery. Real sizzle.

13

Ray 06.11.08 at 12:10 pm

The fringe right oppose these treaties, as you say. The fringe left also oppose them. I don’t know why you didn’t mention them, or why I bother pointing this out, but there you go…

14

toby 06.11.08 at 12:17 pm

When does one stop voting for European Treaties?

So far, Ireland has gained immeasureably from being part of Europe. Where the strongest local political tradition has balked at any rappochement with our nearest neighbour, Europe provided both a model and a vision for Irish politics. By changing the playing field, it brought Ireland and Britain closer than they have ever being, in the process “solving the Irish problem”, though that has been said prematurely before!

I dislike the idea of a bureaucratic super-state, but I feel that is not necessarily the end. I think small states (the majority) like the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, the Baltic states, Slovenia, the Low Countries, the Balkan states, Cyprus and Malta will learn to group themselves to counter the influences of the giants (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, maybe Poland).

So I am prepared to take a leap in the dark and vote for Lisbon. But my patience with a new “Treaty” every few years is growing thin.

15

James 06.11.08 at 1:04 pm

On a small point the Greens are tecnically neutral, not for Lisbon. Their government ministers are campaigning for it, and others against but all in a “personal capacity”, as they say. Their conference voted to support it by about 60% or so but it needed a two-thirds majority to make the party campaign for it.

16

James 06.11.08 at 1:11 pm

I agree with Maria that people are very attached to the idea that low corporate tax is essential for foreign investment and thus prosperity. Personally I think limiting tax competition is one of the best things the EU could do but it’s not a popular line in Ireland I don’t think. Nothing to do with Lisbon per se, but then Yes appeals to the general virtuosity of the EU aren’t either, strictly speaking.

Ultimately Henry’s point no. 5 is the best and possibly sufficient No argument – substantively Lsibon is OK, but procedurally the whole thing leaves a lot to be desired.

Michael – is it really the case that the EU is “creaking to a halt” under the current rules? I think its current potential is greatly circumscribed by its legitimacy problem (which I think the substance of Lisbon would improve marginally) in terms of democracy, transparency etc deficits.

17

novakant 06.11.08 at 1:20 pm

procedurally the whole thing leaves a lot to be desired.

Maybe, but anybody criticizing the process as undemocratic has to explain to me how it is democratic that the future of ~500 million people is effectively shaped by the will of ~2 million Irish voters. And if the counter-argument is that all member states should hold a referendum, I reply that this is simply not feasible: just multiply the current situation in Ireland as described by Henry with everybody and their dog weighing in for all sorts of reasons by 27.

18

James 06.11.08 at 1:52 pm

“explain to me how it is democratic that the future of ~500 million people is effectively shaped by the will of ~2 million Irish voters”

That’s the feckin’ point – it isn’t!

How do you define “feasible”? I mean, the Irish referendum looks like it will, in fact, take place – it seems very feasible to me. What you mean is that it isn’t feasible that all 27 countries would vote yes, isn’t that so?

I agree, but my view is that the EU is not sustainable (feasible, one might say) without the consent of its citizens. Ultimately I think there’s something to be said for bringing things to a head and sorting out where we all stand.

The kind of ambitions federalists (of which I think I am one) have for Europe are probably not viable across the 27, so I say we may need some kind of split between deep and shallow integrationists – countries who broadly share a broadly federalist vision and countries that don’t. The inner core of federalists could agree on a mechanism whereby constitutional changes (which is basically what Treaties are) are put to referendum but only require, say, two thirds of members to approve (plus perhaps a majority of voters) to go through. The “shallow” overall Union would continue on a unanimist basis.

19

novakant 06.11.08 at 2:12 pm

I agree, but my view is that the EU is not sustainable (feasible, one might say) without the consent of its citizens. Ultimately I think there’s something to be said for bringing things to a head and sorting out where we all stand.

I agree – with the first sentence ;). But (maybe I’ve been missing something): the dissent among the EU citizens regarding Lisbon seems to be limited to roughly 1 million Irish voters, many of whom have used this opportunity to voice more or less unrelated grievances. If large parts of the EU citizenry had been against Lisbon, I would have expected big demonstrations and prime time TV coverage. Rather, it seems that most people are fine with it or, more plausibly, don’t really give a damn or know anything about it.

And as I have said earlier, this is generally how it works in representative democracies. Decisions are made over people’s heads all the time and nobody seems to be bothered much. And even if they are bothered, like the 1 million marching in London or the 95% in Spain against the Iraq war, that’s no guarantee anything will be done about it.

I’m not saying that this is a wonderful state of a affairs, but decades of representative democracy have shown that this is how it generally works. Why hold the EU, where it’s a small miracle that anything ever gets done, to a higher standard?

20

Niamh 06.11.08 at 2:13 pm

Hi,

I have seen some really good arguments for voting for the Treaty, but only from the No side. I have seen it argued that if it is ratified the abortion ban in Ireland will be overturned and gay marriage will have to be allowed. I am trying to find the blog that argued it — i found it by clicking on a paid ad that said “Find out why abortionists are for the Lisbon Treaty” but I can’t find it any more.

I don’t suppose there’s any chance this is true? I mean, I know it is probably just rabid frothing wingnuttery but I really want it to be true.

21

James 06.11.08 at 2:26 pm

I think you have missed something. Lisbon is basically the same thing as the constitution that was rejected by the French and the Dutch. Britain (because it’s just crazily anti-European) would I’m sure vote against it too.

I don’t accept that votes against EU treaties )in Ireland and elsewhere) are nothing to do with percieved merits or otherwise of the Treaties and the Union more generally. And don’t forget that EU treaties have been approved on numerous occasions by electorates (including the Irish one). This doesn’t prove much but it does suggest a slightly different picture to an ignorant public expressing misdirected dissatisfactin whenever they’re given the chance.

Most importantly, the difference between EU treaties and the normal fare of representative democracy is that the former are changes in the rules of the latter, and these rules should pass a higher democratic hurdle than “ordinary” legislation (whether domestic or EU).

22

ejh 06.11.08 at 3:30 pm

I’m very unimpressed by the “no”, as it really does smack of hysteria and flat-Earthism.

Well what a convincing argument that is. Though it does remind me why many people are have a gut-reaction No on things like this: because too many pro-EU people talk and act as if they were the Enlightened Ones and everybody else a dinosaur.

23

Sebastian 06.11.08 at 3:44 pm

Henry: “I wouldn’t have thought myself that taxation benefits for large multinational corporations would be a rallying point for the general public.”

If they believe that Ireland’s recent success has a lot to do with companies that wouldn’t be in Ireland except for the tax structure, and if those corporations employ people in Ireland, why wouldn’t it be a rallying point. People don’t hate corporations for employing them, they hate corporations that are screwing them. If the impression in Ireland is that there is more employing them than screwing them, why wouldn’t they be worried about something that would change that?

Is it just that you disagree with the assessment? Do you believe that most of those corporations would be in Ireland if it weren’t for the tax structure there? (I don’t personally have any opinion on it, it is possible for all I know that all those corporations would be there anyway.)

Novakant: “But (maybe I’ve been missing something): the dissent among the EU citizens regarding Lisbon seems to be limited to roughly 1 million Irish voters, many of whom have used this opportunity to voice more or less unrelated grievances. If large parts of the EU citizenry had been against Lisbon, I would have expected big demonstrations and prime time TV coverage. Rather, it seems that most people are fine with it or, more plausibly, don’t really give a damn or know anything about it.”

Well the only reason most dissent seems to be limited to the Irish is that no other country is allowing their citizenry to vote on the issue. Being allowed to vote on the issue helps focus on it, a focus that all of the other countries are working to avoid. Not being allowed to vote on it saps focus from it. There is no date to rally around/against. The thing is impenetrable to read, making it resistant to useful summaries about its substantive content. And rhetorically there should be a third thing that saps focus, but I don’t have one this morning. :)

Also it is substantivally similar to the Constitution which was rejected already by the Dutch and the French. In fact the packaging of it seems specifically designed to create the Constitution without troubling people with the idea that it is a Constitution. Doesn’t d-squared have some sort of saying about good ideas not requiring such a high degree of propaganda?

So it isn’t really as if the Irish are the only ones who oppose it. When asked, the Dutch and French did too. So EU leaders decided not to ask the Dutch and French people this time. I’m sure that this is tactically wise from people who want to pass the Constitution Treaty, but on the topic Henry raised (democratic legitimacy) it looks sneaky and bad.

24

Maria 06.11.08 at 4:19 pm

It’s repetitive but seeing as john m has asked directly, my number 1 reason for voting yes (if I had a vote) is also to bring the 3rd pillar under parliamentary oversight. This will have long-reaching effects and curb member states’ ability to policy launder and blame regressive criminal justice policies on “Europe”.

Niamh, I’ve not seen the blogs that say the treaty will bring in gay marriage and abortion. But I’d guess they spring from the charter of rights (see Henry’s comment above).

25

vanya 06.11.08 at 4:57 pm

You’d think the experience of watching the US devolve into an imperial state ruled by an oligarchical elite where the ordinary citizen has no say in how his affairs are governed would be enough to scare sensible Europeans into voting “No” and dissolving their bonds at the first opportunity. We need more political decentralization in the world, not more giant bureaucracies with immense power beholden to no-one.

26

Paddy Matthews 06.11.08 at 5:12 pm

p o’neill:

One problem has been the FF GOTV operation—which they have motivated by putting pictures of their TDs on the Yes posters. A calculation that FG voters would swallow their irritation and still vote Yes.

My impression is that all the three main parties are at it – Fine Gael has Enda Kenny (party leader) and the five outgoing MEPs on posters urging us to “be at the heart of Europe”.

The prize for opportunism, though, goes to Labour, who have stuck up posters of their local councillors with a small, almost invisible, “VOTE YES TO EUROPE” in the corner. How could voters be cynical about either the Lisbon treaty or politicians in general when faced with that?

27

novakant 06.11.08 at 5:18 pm

why wouldn’t they be worried about something that would change that?

Because the change solely concerns indirect taxes and corporate tax is a direct tax.

it looks sneaky and bad

Then the whole concept of representational democracy is “sneaky and bad”.

28

Sebastian 06.11.08 at 6:49 pm

“Then the whole concept of representational democracy is “sneaky and bad”.”

To the extent that public officials feel they have to go out of their way to avoid accountability, or feel they have to be misleading or deceptive to get their way, yes.

And furthermore, making changes in the deep substantive process requires a little bit higher bar than just “our public officals buried it and we didn’t look too deep”. This changes in a pretty substantive way how the people and their representatives will be accountable to each other. Having that as an aside doesn’t seem proper.

And you didn’t address the fact that this has essentially already been rejected by the French and Dutch. Doesn’t that change your “1 million Irish” objection a little?

29

Michelle 06.11.08 at 7:40 pm

Does anybody know any Yes voters?

30

Nordic Mousse 06.11.08 at 8:01 pm

“Well what a convincing argument that is. Though it does remind me why many people are have a gut-reaction No on things like this: because too many pro-EU people talk and act as if they were the Enlightened Ones and everybody else a dinosaur

Obviously you think they say NO in a fit of pique, and not out of conviction

Where does this lead us?

31

novakant 06.11.08 at 8:34 pm

De facto, it will be 1 million Irish voters. And if the French really felt that this was such a life or death issue, they should have taken to the streets, announced a national strike or elected candidates from the far right or left, who were against it. Instead they elected Sarkozy, a vocal proponent of Lisbon.

And you didn’t address the fact that the Irish No voters’ main argument is a blatant sack of lies. The treaty doesn’t apply to direct taxes at all and the member states retain their veto power on proposals regarding those.

32

Sebastian 06.11.08 at 9:15 pm

So your view is that nothing should be voted on by the people unless they are willing to stage large scale demonstrations against it even when there is no focus point in time to do so?

That seems odd, but I guess it is self-coherent.

33

Sebastian 06.11.08 at 9:16 pm

And the Dutch….

34

Paddy Matthews 06.11.08 at 9:46 pm

Does anybody know any Yes voters?

…raises hand

(Although an unenthusiastic Yes, largely because of Henry’s fifth point above. A (narrow) defeat might teach our political class a small lesson about involving the public from the beginning.)

35

john m. (still not the other recent guy) 06.12.08 at 6:52 am

Hi Maria,

Thanks for the reply – as I expected it is a pro-EU rather than a pro-Irish stance. If our politicians had shown a shred of integrity(hah) that’s exactly what they should have said. I’ll be voitng yes later but the treaty could be in real trouble.

Mind you, Novakant’s idiotic notions of democracy (if we don’t ask them they must be in favour) leaves a lot to be desired. Not least is the point that we HAVE to hold a referendum as elements of the Treaty affect our consitution – does he\she\it really think the politicians would have voluntarily put this forward if they had a choice?

36

Z 06.12.08 at 8:14 am

De facto, it will be 1 million Irish voters.

Better than no referendum at all, as far I am concerned. I would have favored a European referendum held on the same day in each member states (that allows this mode of consultation). Representative democracy is OK, but is problematic when there are suspicions that the representatives hold very different view from the electorate on one particular issue. This is exactly the case here. Beside, I personally laud a constitution that requires a referendum for constitutional change.

And if the French really felt that this was such a life or death issue, they should have taken to the streets, announced a national strike or elected candidates from the far right or left, who were against it. Instead they elected Sarkozy, a vocal proponent of Lisbon.

For most of us (French), it is not a life or death issue, it is an issue, just like any other. When I vote for someone, I generally agree with some of his positions and disagree with some, that should come to you as no surprise. Still, it is a bit annoying to see the way the French and Dutch referenda are considered, as you would undoubtedly understand in the symmetric eventuality (the side you favored in a referendum wins a decisive victory yet the opposite choice is implemented by the next elected parliament).

37

Dave 06.12.08 at 9:40 am

It would be good if the EU member-states could agree on what mechanisms actually constitute ‘democracy’, then all practise them: at the moment one’s ability as a ‘citizen of Europe’ to actually influence political processes depends entirely on accidents of birth [allowing that the vast majority will never change the national citizenship they were born into]. This may replicate many other such distributions of access and opportunity, but one thing it is not, if there is supposed to be an ideal of European citizenship, is ‘democratic’.

EU states appear to be willing to centralise and coordinate their administrative ability to impose burdens on their citizenry, but curiously reluctant to examine harmonisation of the elective legitimation of their own existence and practices around any form of agreed optima. I wonder why?

38

novakant 06.12.08 at 10:17 am

EU states appear to be willing to centralise and coordinate their administrative ability to impose burdens on their citizenry, but curiously reluctant to examine harmonisation of the elective legitimation of their own existence and practices around any form of agreed optima.

Actually, the Lisbon Treaty increases the power of both the European parliament (codecision procedure) and the national parliaments (principle of subsidiarity).

39

Dave 06.12.08 at 12:30 pm

Yeah, but that’s not what I *said* is it? I said why can’t they get member states to agree on what ‘democratic’ practices *are*, then it won’t just be *some* EU citizens who get referenda by right, others by govt choice, and others not at all….

And when the EP stops being not so much a gravy-train as a Saturn V rocket loaded with hollandaise sauce, we can talk about the value of codecision.

40

brian 06.12.08 at 1:39 pm

Population size is an irrelevancy, voting is unitary as between sovereign states; the mechanism for determining the direction of that vote is a matter for each sovereign state.

I believe that the main reason for the swell of support for the ‘NO’ position is a growing belief that power is being skewed towards a population basis and in favour of large states and that there will be an even greater flow of European Court directed unacceptable social and adverse regulatory and competitive policies hitting small business and industry.

Unfortunately none the larger countries pushing Lisbon have strong democratic traditions and all seem to be biased towards de facto rule by strong ‘efficient’ centralised bureaucracies directed by self selecting political ‘elites’ c.f. centralised candidate selection,list system etc.

It is the fate of all such elites to come to believe that they are smarter, better intentioned and more far-seeing than their predecessors and will thus avoid the usual mistakes of expansionism, over regulation, stagnation, militarism, authoritarianism and civil strife. History says otherwise.

While this was not a great problem for sovereign states in a common trading area it becomes a major problem in a forced political union dominated by such states.

A deliberately incomprehensible treaty signed as blank pages by European politicians afraid of the will of their own people is being advocated by those self same ‘elites’ on the basis of TRUST US.

It is for such reasons that I will be voting NO.

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William Sjostrom 06.12.08 at 6:42 pm

If you think low taxes on multinationals is not much of a campaign slogan, you have been away too long. In the last general election, FF, FG, PDs, and Labour all very vocally backed low business taxes. The Shinners had always pushed higher business taxes, but last election was their first effort to go more mainstream, and they pretty much fell in line on the tax issue too. I grant I know mostly middle class people, but I know no one who disputes the proposition that the low business tax brings in the multinationals, and that the multinationals bring prosperity. Whether it is true is a separate issue, but it is clearly widely believed, and no one wants to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

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ejh 06.13.08 at 8:04 am

Obviously you think they say NO in a fit of pique, and not out of conviction

No, there are good and bad reasons why people vote No – just as there are for the opposite vote, or indeed for abstention. But I think a lot of people’s gut reaction is to be pleased when people who treat them as morons don’t get what they want. See for instance this BBC report with its ought-to-be-amazing line:

Our correspondent says that many voters seem to have voted No for the simple reason that they did not understand the treaty

No voters – ignorant. Yes voters – no such suggestion.

I’m sure (and I can see in the comments above) that a fair number of Yes voters don’t much like this attitude either. But it’s really widespread and I’m afraid I think it largely consists of a lot of well-off metropolitan people with good education and promising careers supporting things that suit their interest and assuming it’s axiomatic that everybody else should do the same.

Which is, in itself, another sort of ignorance.

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Anthony 06.13.08 at 12:45 pm

“No voters – ignorant. Yes voters – no such suggestion.”

I don’t know about what the rest of the media are saying, but I suspect they’re both ignorant in that they didn’t make a judgement on the treaty itself, but on the presentation of issues – true or untrue – by the campaigns.

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Z 06.13.08 at 2:29 pm

But it’s really widespread and I’m afraid I think it largely consists of a lot of well-off metropolitan people with good education and promising careers supporting things that suit their interest and assuming it’s axiomatic that everybody else should do the same. Which is, in itself, another sort of ignorance.

This beautifully describes much of the debate around the evolution of the economic, social and political system in a globalized world.

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Sebastian 06.13.08 at 4:01 pm

“Our correspondent says that many voters seem to have voted No for the simple reason that they did not understand the treaty

No voters – ignorant. Yes voters – no such suggestion.”

The funny thing is that presuming you make some effort to understand it, and still can’t understand it, that sounds like a perfectly good reason to vote ‘no’. Legislators should honestly try to make things understandable to people. The ‘yes’ people have a hard time making a positive case for it because they don’t understand it either.

So if neither side can really understand it, voting ‘no’ makes sense. You shouldn’t postively vote ‘yes’ on a law that no one seems to understand. That is especially true when there is a suspicion that the allegedly governed bodies are going to be the ones defining the terms.

Would anyone like to agree to a contract with me whereby you agree to adlk kjvbhsvshsig a;onasss rh onivslkn in exchange for my promise to adlkfasdkre aca;lknrsvsoin ae;lan;lkareoi eelkagha;oih if I get to define the terms later? If you are likely to be bound to that contract unless you take the positive act of voting no, shouldn’t you vote no?

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Shelby 06.13.08 at 11:43 pm

Henry, how about another post now that the vote is in? Any further thoughts on how the campaign and voting worked, or how they should ideally work? For myself I’m a skeptic on the Lisbon Treaty, but as an American I dwell (on this issue, anyway) in rationally ignorant bliss.

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