Ireland’s Lisbon Vote

by Henry on June 14, 2008

As many of you likely know already, Ireland has voted down the Lisbon Treaty 53.4% to 46.6%. This was a slightly higher margin than I had anticipated (in a private email, I had laid my money down on a 52-48 split). As I noted in my previous post on the topic, the Yes campaign was tired and soporific. I’m trying to place an op-ed on the issue (if I don’t succeed, I will probably just bung it up on CT), so will have more to say about this later. But for the nonce, let me just note how appalling some of the responses from politicians in other EU member states – not so much ‘the people have spoken, the bastards,’ as a Brechtian ‘let us elect a new people.’ In particular, German parliamentarian Axel Schäfer’s comment that “With all respect for the Irish vote, we cannot allow the huge majority of Europe to be duped by a minority of a minority of a minority,” would have a bit more credibility if, you know, the majority of the majority of the majority had been given a chance to vote on the Treaty themselves.

{ 88 comments }

1

Finnsense 06.14.08 at 1:42 pm

I’m afraid I can’t agree here. The Irish vote shows why this issue was clearly one that is not amenable to a referendum. A large number of people voting “No” said they did so because they didn’t know what the treaty was all about. This is despite a quick google search coming up with any number of brief outlines of the key changes being made – none of which can really be considered very controversial. It’s not like they really expand the powers of the EU.

The sad thing about this vote was that aside from general ignorance, many voted “no” because they didn’t want foreigners taking their jobs. Given the economic miracle that membership of the EU has helped Ireland to achieve over two decades (much of it through straightforward handouts) it is quite disgusting that there is even any debate about whether membership of the EU has been, for Ireland, a good thing.

2

jim 06.14.08 at 2:39 pm

There wasn’t this reaction last time when the French voted it down. Ireland doesn’t get the same respect as France.

I suspect the anger is really directed at the Irish government: if they weren’t sure they’d win a referendum, they shouldn’t have called one. Why couldn’t they be like everyone else?

People do have the strange idea they ought to be able to understand what they’re voting on by reading it, rather than looking up what someone says is a brief outline of what it says.

3

toby 06.14.08 at 3:02 pm

The “Yes” campaign was pretty miserable .. it only began 4 weeks ago! By that time, the “No” campaign had been in full swing and had got most of its points across. The “Yes” backers only got up a head of steam last week, but it was too little too late.

The Government pretty much took its eye off the ball because its leader spent an inordinate amount of time in epic struggles with a Commission of Enquiry into some of this odd dealings with rich businessmen. By the time he had resigned and the new guy got his ass into the chair, Brian Cowan (the new leader) was handed a can of worms.

Cowan is not fully to blame, but he will be the one to face the other EU leaders next week and propose a new strategy.

Whither now? I get the sense that the attitude from other European leaders is “Screw the Irish!” and Ireland will be offered some sort of bilateral deal with the rest of the EU ratifying Lisbon.

Someone who might prevent that is Gordon Brown who is under pressure to reject Lisbon. He might take this chance to argue that Lisbon is finished because the Irish have rejected it. Some other countries might agree. It is unlikely that France and Germany will.

So it does open up the nightmare of a “two-track” EU with “centre” countries tightly bound, and a “outer rim” in more loose bilateral arrangements. I am not sure if that is a good thing. Certainly, Ireland traditionally “at the heart of Europe” will be very unhappy by being consigned to an inferior tier of countries. That is not what the majority of “No” voters want.

The “No” campaigners are saying that this is not a vote “against Europe” and they expect a new (and “better” in some sense) deal to be negotiated. Its a case of “Beware of what you wish for …. it might come true.”

4

Jacob Christensen 06.14.08 at 3:17 pm

There are a number of variables in play here. One obvious retort to Herr Schäfer would be to ask what would happen in a hypothetical German referendum.

From a Danish perspective it looked pretty obvious that the Lisbon Treaty was written precisely so that it would not fall under Article 20 of the Danish constitution, demanding a referendum in the case of a transfer of sovereignty. Instead the treaty was ratified without anybody noticing it.

But of cause much of this is an exercise on damage control: If you can convince yourself and the world that this was due to some irrational motivation of the Irish, then you also minimise the need for changes to the treaty.

5

novakant 06.14.08 at 3:19 pm

Ok, I’m really angry, but I’ll try to condense the rational points behind that anger:

1.) nobody knew what they were voting on

Wrong, there were numerous sites and media resources that clearly laid out what this treaty was about, if you made a little bit of effort you could have known.

2.) a victory for democracy

Two points.

First regarding the treaty itself:
to anybody even only vaguely familiar with the content of the treaty, it was clear that both the power of the European parliament, as well as the power of the national parliaments, i.e. bodies directly elected by the people would have been strengthened. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but an important step in the right direction.

Secondly, regarding the procedural point: people almost never get to vote on such complex treaties directly, people just don’t vote directly on a constitution, a health-care reform or a new tax system. Rather they elect representatives who they think will do their bidding but de facto only make vague promises and have civil servants do the legal grunt work while they try to push through some deal after endless hours of haggling behind closed doors. That’s just how representative democracy works. Referendums are rare and for good reason and they are almost always about single, simple issues.

3.) I’m not saying that one couldn’t have had some good reason to vote against the treaty, but de facto most people voted against it for all the wrong and often diametrically opposed reasons. Some of those reasons didn’t have anything to do with the treaty at all and most of those that touched upon points in the treaty were simply distorted. E.g. many people voted against the treaty because they feared for the Irish corporate tax (treaty doesn’t touch upon it, only on indirect taxes), they feared their children might be drafted into a EU army (wrong) or that they would loose “their commissioner” (already agreed upon in the Nice treaty.

6

Ciarán 06.14.08 at 4:24 pm

On the late campaign issue, it’s one of the few areas where politicians have my sympathy. Since the McKenna Judgement political parties have to fight referendums out of their own funds. On this occasion the no campaign was better funded (and from the very dubious pockets of Sinn Féin and Libertas). The late announcemnt of a referendum date was motivated by the need to focus resources where they could.

On the issue in general, Pete Baker has a very good roundup on Slugger O’Toole.

7

jim 06.14.08 at 5:25 pm

@5:

there were numerous sites and media resources that clearly laid out what this treaty was about

Well, no. There were numerous sites and media resources that made claims about the treaty. The “No” campaign also had sites and media resources that made claims about the treaty. It may well be that the first set of claims were correct and the second set of claims were incorrect, but I don’t see how individual voters could verify that without being able to actually read the treaty (and make sense of it) themselves. In the end, they had to trust one or the other, and chose to trust the “No” campaign.

8

Ray 06.14.08 at 6:08 pm

Novakant, your argument is that we should discount the idea that this is a victory for democracy because… representative democracy isn’t democratic.
Come on, admit it – you were a speechwriter for the Yes campaign, weren’t you?

9

Aidan Kehoe 06.14.08 at 6:11 pm

I suspect Tim is right, and that the good Herr Schäfer didn’t understand that the vote was a legal obligation on the Irish government. Certainly the Deutschlandfunk news that led with his comments yesterday(?) didn’t mention this, and it’s a rather important point.

I don’t think it would have been a particularly sensible idea, in the absence of the legal obligation, to have the Irish electorate vote on the Lisbon treaty, any more than it would be a particularly sensible idea for the users of Microsoft Word to decide on the use of threads in that program, despite that both issues affect the relevant people in subtle, complex, and often important ways.

10

James 06.14.08 at 6:18 pm

Actually there’s a fair bit of debate as to whether it was really constitutionally necessary to have a referendum, but as we’ve had one for every Treaty since the Single European Act its a) customary and b) tricky/undemocratic for the government not to hold one.

novakant – would changing an electoral system be the sort of thing it would be appropriate to put to referendum, or rather inappropriate not to? The Treaty is analogous because it’s about changing the rules of representative democracy (by effectively transferring some competences to the EU).

11

James 06.14.08 at 6:26 pm

Toby (@ #3) refers to “the nightmare of a “two-track” EU with “centre” countries tightly bound, and a “outer rim” in more loose bilateral arrangements”.

Actually I would say this is probably desirable and inevitable – I don’t see how a Europe of 27+ can accomodate the ambitions of more federalist countries and the fears/hostilities of more sceptical ones. In fact I have to say that it struck me as one of the most illegitmate arguments of the No campaigners during the Nice Treaty campaign when they similtaneously condemned it for ceding powers to Brussels AND creating a “two-track” EU through “enhanced cooperation” procedures i.e. the very thing that would allow those countries less keen on sharing soverignty to do so without sacrificing what they currently gain from the EU.

In fact this is precisely what Le Monde calls for in its editorial today – an “avant-garde” group parallel to the Union as a whole willing to integrate on the basis of a less than unanimous decision-rule.

Amusingly, the editorial is entitled “Une chance pour l’Europe?”, whereas The Irish Times’ is “A cloud with no silver lining”!

12

jj 06.14.08 at 6:29 pm

As Henry knows I have argued before, the problem is that these treaties are just too complex for any kind of democratic or even deliberative process to be effective. So when it is said, as above, that “A large number of people voting ‘No’ said they did so because they didn’t know what the treaty was all about,” I’d hope that we take this as a criticism of the treaty writers and not of the voters.

13

James 06.14.08 at 6:44 pm

Hey Henry, you left out the worst part of Schäfer’s comment – he also said “it is a real cheek that the country that has benefited most from the EU should do this”!

Meanwhile:

“Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was equally critical, calling for states obstructing integration to be left out of the EU. “Now is the time for a courageous choice by those who want coherent progress in building Europe, leaving out those who despite solemn, signed pledges threaten to block it,” he said in a statement.”

These guys just remind me of my reaction after Nice was defeated – first of all I was unsure how to react, then the contemptuous reaction from people like these made me proud of our defiance, however blind and ignorant, of the great and good.

OTOH hearing it from a small, poor, formerly war-torn would-be member does make one a little more uncomfortable:

“The Croatian president, Stipe Mesic, expressed disappointment in Ireland. “Now that they have used the accession and structural funds, when they have developed enormously, I’m a little surprised that the solidarity is at an end,” said Mr Mesic.”

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0614/1213369845918.html

14

Tim Worstall 06.14.08 at 6:53 pm

As to voting now because you don’t know what the Treaty is about…..try it this way.

“Here is a large and complex document. It’s sufficiently important that the Irish Constitution says we have to have a referendum on it because it will change that Constitution. So, how will you vote?”

“Umm, I don’t understand it but as you say, it must change things in an important manner. I’ll vote no.”

Seems like perfectly acceptable behaviour to me.

And yes, I am indeed a raving and screaming eurosceptic: so much so that I’m a member of UKIP.

But that doesn’t change the point above.

What does amuse though is that 100% of the popular votes on this Treaty have given the answer no.

Yes, there’s only been one, but still, a 100% rejection rate should (although of course it won’t) make the proposers think again.

15

Antoni Jaume 06.14.08 at 7:44 pm

//
[…]
What does amuse though is that 100% of the popular votes on this Treaty have given the answer no.

Yes, there’s only been one, but still, a 100% rejection rate should (although of course it won’t) make the proposers think again.
//

If you said 100 % of electoral processes I would agree, but not 100% of popular votes. Ireland has voted down the Lisbon Treaty 53.4% to 46.6% not 100 % to 0. Oh, and by the way in Spain we voted affirmatively on a more stringent treaty.

DSW

16

gr 06.14.08 at 7:53 pm

“OTOH hearing it from a small, poor, formerly war-torn would-be member does make one a little more uncomfortable”

As well it should. The chances for other countries to join in the near future have been dramatically lowered by the Irish vote. Many argue that further enlargement should be postponed if Lisbon does not come into effect. But hey, you folks had your fill, I guess that’s what counts.

17

Finnsense 06.14.08 at 7:56 pm

“So when it is said, as above, that “A large number of people voting ‘No’ said they did so because they didn’t know what the treaty was all about,” I’d hope that we take this as a criticism of the treaty writers and not of the voters.”

This is the problem. People somehow expect a legal document, designed in large part to lay out some quite technical workings of a necessarily large bureaucracy, to be easy to read. It never will be and it shouldn’t be. As said before, google “Lisbon Treaty” and you’ll get plenty of impartial summaries of the major innovations it is intended to bring into force.

The actual implication of the “its too complex” crowd’s arguments is that we should have a treaty for no more than one or two innovations at a time so the public’s heads don’t explode with confusion. To be honest, if we could just pass the double-majority voting bit, it would help things along. I’m pretty sure the Irish would vote against that though.

The Irish should leave the EU.

18

Ray 06.14.08 at 8:07 pm

So, finnsense, will you also be showing the door to the French? Or is your stance that popular opposition in a country is fine, as long as that country’s parliament is able to ignore that opposition?

19

Shay 06.14.08 at 8:27 pm

The Irish should leave the EU.

Posted by Finnsense · June 14th, 2008 at 7:56 pm

There’s your two-tier Europe right there. Was there any of this shite when the French citizens voted down the EU Constitution? Not a bit of it. France leave the EU? Are you mad? But when Irish citizens vote down essentially the same constitution/treaty you get comments like the above. If this is peoples’ attitudes to smaller EU countries’ citizens exercising their democratic right then maybe the Irish are not the only small European country that should consider their future in this kind of project.

20

a very public sociologist 06.14.08 at 9:19 pm

If the no vote was an ‘ignorant’ vote, then surely it was beholden on the yes campaign to get out there and take the case to the doorsteps? The problem is not just with the yes campaign – the EU is seen as a remote and out of touch institution, because it is remote and out of touch. Just how many “normal” people were consulted over the Lisbon Treaty? What kinds of input do millions of Europeans have into the EU aside from elections every five years? And who in the EU, aside from bureaucrats and kleptocrats would like to see neoliberalism enshrined in a constitutional document?

If the EU is to be relevant it must undergo democratisation. But what are the chances of that happening?

21

novakant 06.14.08 at 9:36 pm

Just how many “normal” people were consulted over the Lisbon Treaty? What kinds of input do millions of Europeans have into the EU aside from elections every five years?

And just how many “normal” people are consulted over any of the treaties your country negotiates with other countries, or any other large scale reform or legislation for that matter? What kind of input do millions in your country have into the doings of your government aside from elections every couple of years?

22

Eamonn Fitzgerald 06.14.08 at 9:59 pm

For once, I agree with Henry. The Irish were required to have a referendum by force of Ireland’s constitution and the people spoke. They must now accept the consequences of their decision, but they do not deserve to be abused or bullied as a result. The French and Dutch, who rejected the earlier version of the Lisbon Treaty, were not vilified for deciding as they did.

23

Doug 06.14.08 at 10:16 pm

The spectre that is now haunting the EU is named Liberum Veto. Ask your local Polish plumber.

24

Ignatius Hanley 06.14.08 at 10:24 pm

Lets be totally honest about the NO vote. It was a mix of disenchanted groups from farmers, fishermen, anti government, frustrated middle class, republican militarists and right wing vested interests. As an Irishman who struggled with making our decision I finally came to the decision by reading fairly straigtforward documentation from our referendum commission. The information was available but I am afraid we have become a lazy electorate. We preferred to listen to the claims and internalise them into our own problems. We deserve to face the consequences of our actions. We pride ourselves on being educated but I believe we showed our ignorance. Confusion won the day because we allowed ourselves to be directed. I believe we deserve to bear the consequences of our inability to grasp fairly straight forward arguments and allowed ourselves to be confused by the NO campaign. Unfortunately the consequence of our action may not be apparent for our own generation but our children will rue this vote. Europe won’t be wagged by the Irish tail. Rightly so. We deserve to be left on the sidelines and we will be – eventually. The NO voters will abdicate responsibility when the consequences unfold. But history will be the final judge.

25

JP 06.14.08 at 10:38 pm

26

jj 06.15.08 at 12:31 am

Finnsense, I don’t entirely disagree with your analysis … this is the EU’s dilemma. It can’t just have a nice clean constitution, one that it would make sense to consult the people about, because there is no EU people. There is little of the glue that, in principle, holds a modern nation state together. So the constitution ends up reading like a contract, and it makes very little sense to submit a legal contract to the public by a direct democratic procedure.

On the other hand, the more desirable kind of instrument to submit to the people is unattainable. So we’re stuck with documents that are inappropriate for democratic deliberation and adjudication being put forward for precisely those things.

I don’t see any way out of this bind for the EU.

27

Caledonian Jim 06.15.08 at 12:47 am

The Lisbon Treaty is itself a regurgitated version of the EU constitution which was voted down before .

The contempt for democracy shown by politicians who refuse to allow a referendum, coupled with the patronising arrogance of those that question the validity of the Irish electorate’s verdict, leave us in no doubt that they’ll still try to force this treaty through or alternatively bring out another version which they’ll say has “taken people’s views into account ” . They won’t stop till they impose this whether we like it or not .

Same old, same old .

Economic co-operation – yes .
Political union – no .

28

stuart 06.15.08 at 1:34 am

Economic co-operation – yes .
Political union – no .

Cool, so now describe the exact dividing line between economics and politics then…

29

gr 06.15.08 at 6:11 am

Frankly, I have trouble understanding the argument that this is a major victory for ‘democracy’ over evil and unaccountable bureaucrats.

Many important political decisions that affect all Europeans are no longer taken on the national but on the EU level, which is not going to change if Lisbon fails. With respect to those issues, I am as much governed by the representatives of Ireland (and Sweden and Holland and Portugal, etc.) as I am by my own government. Same for the Irish, which also isn’t going to change. So the fact is, we already have, and will presumably keep, a form of collective decision-making on the European level.

Given this fact, what is so terribly democratic about giving a very small fraction of the European demos that seems to consist mostly of deluded cranks a veto power over decisions that affect all? None of the ‘proper’ democracies that EU critics seem to fancy so much give such veto powers to small minorities. They all work on a majoritarian basis. It seems, in other words, that Lisbon would bring the European process closer to the standard democratic model. What is undemocratic about that?

If you answer that the problem is that the Irish (or whoever) can then be outvoted on some issue, you shouldn’t have become a member of the EU and you shouldn’t have agreed to the integration process so far. It must have been clear all along that doing so involves a transfer of power to a process of collective decision making on a supranational level. And I trust that the Irish have to fall into line more often than not as it is.

30

gr 06.15.08 at 6:49 am

Also, the whole rhetoric about the “undemocratic” nature of the EU is patently disingenuous. If the EU were organized in a perfectly democratic fashion, a million Irish wouldn’t have a veto power over decisions that affect all. But the critics, I trust, would not prefer that arrangement. It follows that their concern can’t really be with the allegedly undemocratic nature of the EU decision making process. I agree with finnsense that the Irish should leave, and I hope they’ll take the British with them.

31

Finnsense 06.15.08 at 9:30 am

“will you also be showing the door to the French?”

The short answer is that if the French had voted against a constitution that the other 26 members ratified then I would expect them to leave, yes. I’m aware not all the states have ratified the constitution yet by the way, and if other states reject it then it’s a different situation. When I say Ireland should leave, it’s based on the assumption they are the only nation against it.

The whole point of the proposed new voting system is to prevent individual states from holding up everyone else. It is absurd that 26 nations cannot move forward with a closer and more efficient union because of one nation. It doesn’t strike me as particularly democratic either.

32

Caledonian Jim 06.15.08 at 9:55 am

Reply to Stuart ( post # 28 )

Economic co-operation : free trade,establishment of powerful European economic bloc, maintenance of nation states : YES

Politcal Union : single European army, increasing pervasive influence of Roman Catholic church, EU President Tony Blair : NO

33

Mike 06.15.08 at 10:45 am

I voted NO to changing our Irish Constitution. (That’s acually what we voted on) Had we voted yes this time, it would have been the last time we would ever get the oportunity to vote on our own destiny. A YES vote would have ceeded decision making on such future issues to the European Non-Elected Politicians. In Ireland we have already “lost” our local councils. They have been replaced by non-elected County Managers who have ultimate say on all local issues. We still elect local councillors but they are completely impotent, well paid, stooges. NOW we are being asked to do the same at National and EU level. We can not allow un-elected, un-known politicians decide on our fate. We are pro-European but we are foremost Pro-democracy and there is no disgrace in standing up for National self determination. Leaders of Germany, France, U.K. and other European countries are now trying to belittle our DEMOCRATIC deciscion and railroad the treaty through at all costs. One politician in Germany referring to us as a Minority of a Minority of a Minority. What does this comment say about what kind of “influence” Ireland will have in the new EU Superstate? DOES EUROPE REALLY WANT TO BE RULED BY THESE TYPE OF INDIVIDUALS who will be able to do so with impunity and with no popular mandate ? The rest of Europes citizens need to support the Irish peoples decision.You dont need a referendum to voice your popular disapproval. The Irish “Government” won’t be supporting the Irish “people” – they are firmly entrenched in the EU politicians bed. Comfortable for an elite few !

34

Brett Bellmore 06.15.08 at 10:56 am

“If the EU were organized in a perfectly democratic fashion, a million Irish wouldn’t have a veto power over decisions that affect all.”

Well, yes, but they wouldn’t need it, either, because the constitutiontreaty would have gone down in flames across the EU, instead of just in the only country which allowed it’s citizens the opportunity to reject it.

35

astrongmaybe 06.15.08 at 11:09 am

Perry Anderson’s analysis of the state of the European project is well worth reading, even if you strongly disagree with his stance. LRB, 2007:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n18/ande01_.html

One typical passage gives a flavor:
“The vast majority of the decisions of the Council, Commission and Coreper concern domestic issues that were traditionally debated in national legislatures. But in the conclaves at Brussels these become the object of diplomatic negotiations: that is, of the kind of treatment classically reserved for foreign or military affairs, where parliamentary controls are usually weak to non-existent, and executive discretion more or less untrammelled. Since the Renaissance, secrecy has always been the other name of diplomacy. What the core structures of the EU effectively do is convert the open agenda of parliaments into the closed world of chancelleries.But even this is not all of it. Traditional diplomacy typically required stealth and surprise for success. But it did not preclude discord or rupture…In the disinfected universe of the EU, this all but disappears, as unanimity becomes virtually de rigueur on all significant occasions, any public disagreement, let alone refusal to accept a prefabricated consensus, increasingly being treated as if it were an unthinkable breach of etiquette. The deadly conformism of EU summits, smugly celebrated by theorists of ‘consociational democracy’, as if this were anything other than a cartel of self-protective elites, closes the coffin of even real diplomacy, covering it with wreaths of bureaucratic piety.”

36

m_appel 06.15.08 at 12:14 pm

I’m continuall astonished by the number of people who have drunk deep from the EU Kool-Aid.

Perry Anderson has it right.

37

jim 06.15.08 at 12:23 pm

@31:

When I say Ireland should leave, it’s based on the assumption they are the only nation against it.

But,of course, they aren’t. Gordon Brown this morning ran away from the Treaty as fast as his little legs could carry him. It’s one thing to push an unpopular measure through Parliament if you think it will have, in the end, good results: “They’ll thank me later.” But the last thing he needs is to do that for purely symbolic gains.

38

Mike 06.15.08 at 12:26 pm

“And just how many “normal” people are consulted over any of the treaties your country negotiates with other countries, or any other large scale reform or legislation for that matter? What kind of input do millions in your country have into the doings of your government aside from elections every couple of years?” Posted by novakant.

The short answer to that is, we in Ireland have had a say on all treaties which required an amendment to our constitution.
The people of Ireland have made good and important decisions by referendum in the past, not least, agreeing to changes in the constitution which removed Irelands claim on Northern Ireland which paved the way for the historic and internationally important “Peace Process” in N. Ireland. We are an educated people and we are very much more aware of what happens around Europe than most other Europeans are aware of what happens in Ireland. If we are presented with a logical and well defined argument we will embrace it. If however, we are presented with a re-hacked, previously defeated treaty/constitution, with no reason to vote yes other than to “do as the politicians say”, then thats not good enough.
Just because we are already part of an EU system that dictates to us, does not mean that when we are given a rare opportunity of democratic input we should endorse bad after bad and make an irresponsible change to our constitution to placate the EU “large and elite”.

39

Mike 06.15.08 at 12:27 pm

“And just how many “normal” people are consulted over any of the treaties your country negotiates with other countries, or any other large scale reform or legislation for that matter? What kind of input do millions in your country have into the doings of your government aside from elections every couple of years?” Posted by novakant.

The short answer to that is, we in Ireland have had a say on all treaties which required an amendment to our constitution.
The people of Ireland have made good and important decisions by referendum in the past, not least, agreeing to changes in the constitution which removed Irelands claim on Northern Ireland which paved the way for the historic and internationally important “Peace Process” in N. Ireland. We are an educated people and we are very much more aware of what happens around Europe than most other Europeans are aware of what happens in Ireland. If we are presented with a logical and well defined argument we will embrace it. If however, we are presented with a re-hacked, previously defeated treaty/constitution, with no reason to vote yes other than to “do as the politicians say”, then thats not good enough.
Just because we are already part of an EU system that dictates to us, does not mean that when we are given a rare opportunity of democratic input we should endorse bad after bad and make an irresponsible change to our constitution to placate the EU “large and elite”.

40

Chris Dornan 06.15.08 at 1:02 pm

The whole issue is horribly involved. I wish the Eu could find better ways of connecting with its citizens and coming up with institutions that work better. I would feel a whole lot better about it if I thought the Irish had voted it down on a decent substantive issue with the treaty. If it is a case of blaming the EU for stuff in general then it seems it would be more appropriate for the Irish to leave the EU. Instead I suspect we are going to see a less effective, more unsatisfactory EU as it spends a vast amount of time and energy trying to dig itself out of this mess which I can’t believe will deliver anything better.

It leads me to wonder whether referendums make much sense at all: Lord Norton at Lords of the Blog had some interesting things to say about this and Bryan Appleyard has connected it to the 42 day fiasco through the underlying political malaise. See Appleyard, the Lords, Crooked Timber and the Irish Referendum.

41

RCMoya 06.15.08 at 1:28 pm

I agree that the tenor of responses from certain European leaders has been rather unhelpful, if not downright offensive. As M Chirac once put it, they missed a good opportunity to shut up.

As I understood it many of the ‘No’ campaigners–including the shady leader of Libertas–insisted their campaign was not against the EU as a whole, but only on the treaty. But of course the treaty (which I had the unfortunate displeasure of reading) is all about the EU as a whole; yes, it transfers some competences. No, it does not substantially alter the balance of power between the member states and the Union. And other elements of the treaty were totally misrepresented: the Charter of Fundamental Rights, for example, which gave effect at the EU level to the European Convention on Human Rights…which, by the by, is already enshrined at national level anyway.

As to number 14 above, ‘…it must change things in an important manner. I’ll vote no’…That is not a ‘perfectly acceptable’ response. A perfectly legitimate response would be to demand more information about the treaty from the government, and then maybe, if the government refuses, to reject it on those grounds. Saying yes OR no to changes to present structures, on the simple basis that you haven’t bothered asking what those changes are, isn’t a smart way to proceed at all. And post 15 is correct: how is it that people perpetuate this myth that every country that has ever voted on the Constitution or its successor voted it down?

More to the point…treaties are, and have always been, complex documents. And laws and treaties, at national or international level, are particularly cumbersome when they work to amend previous legislation. We can’t expect draft-treaty makers to make them otherwise. And perhaps its illegitimate, therefore, to ask ‘the people’ to vote on such documents in the first place–unless, of course, there are objective efforts to disseminate summaries of the draft propositions.

The leaders of Ireland abdicated their responsibility by not doing enough to educate the population on the treaty. Ironically, the treaty itself may have pushed for ‘more’ democratisation in the Union, but it was ultimately felled by an injudicious exercise of democracy. No, not because the referendum was called to begin with (though I am of the opinion that this should have been left to legislatures), but because a democratic vote from ignorance is just about the worst possible thing any of us could hope for–under any circumstances.

42

Henry 06.15.08 at 1:42 pm

finnsense, if you are claiming, as you seem to be, that the other member states have all ratified the Lisbon Treaty, then you’re very badly mistaken. Hence, your purported distinction between the Irish vote and the French and Dutch ones fails. I look forward to seeing you move your writ of expulsion against France and Holland ;)

43

marcel 06.15.08 at 2:19 pm

What about this analysis, which asserts/argues that the interests of working class voters in affluent countries differ from those in poorer countries as well as from those of more their affluent compatriots? (Preview not working now, hope this looks right; in case not, the link is

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/1233

44

Sebastian 06.15.08 at 3:27 pm

“Also, the whole rhetoric about the “undemocratic” nature of the EU is patently disingenuous. If the EU were organized in a perfectly democratic fashion, a million Irish wouldn’t have a veto power over decisions that affect all. But the critics, I trust, would not prefer that arrangement. It follows that their concern can’t really be with the allegedly undemocratic nature of the EU decision making process.”

This is a rather tough argument to swallow as it seems apparent that if it were really put to the test in all the countries it wouldn’t have just been rejected in Ireland.

45

novakant 06.15.08 at 3:46 pm

I look forward to seeing you move your writ of expulsion against France and Holland ;)

France ratified the treaty in February and the Dutch lower house ratified it at the beginning of June, with the upper house (and the queen) expected to follow suit. So I’m not sure what you’re referring to here.

46

James 06.15.08 at 4:25 pm

Oh but you are novakant! The reason we have the Lisbon treaty is because France and Holland said no to the Constitutional treaty. Ipso facto they should long since have been expelled from the Union which would have spared us teh bother of negotiating Lisbon in the first place…

47

Niels 06.15.08 at 5:55 pm

Not to be pecky, but what prevents a majority of a majority of a majority from being smaller than a minority of a minority of a minority?

48

Nordic Mousse 06.15.08 at 6:17 pm

I don’t what see the fuss is about. Progress in the EU isn’t dependent on one member, and never has been

The EU has always had dissenters, toe-dippers, nay-sayers, opt-outers etc, of one form or another, and has always been able to accommodate them. What difference does it make this time?

49

Henry 06.15.08 at 6:42 pm

novakant – I was referring, a bit jocularly to the French and Dutch referendums voting No to the Treaty Establishing an European Constitution. If Finnsense’s rather extreme claim that the Irish should be kicked out for having blocked this Treaty is true, then the French and Dutch should presumably have been kicked out already. More generally, I think that there are some very tricky issues of legitimation here, depending on whether you think of the Treaties as being conventional Treaties between states (which I don’t think they really are – they structure domestic politics far more intimately than Treaties usually do, have the ECJ and doctrine of direct effect associated and stuff), or whether you think of them as being constitutional texts. My first approximation read is that they are indeed constitutional texts – which is to say that they define the boundaries of domestic politics in some very fundamental ways, but that many of their defects of incomprehensibility etc arise because they are negotiated as treaties. On a quite reasonable theory of legitimation, this means that they should be subject to popular vote – contrary to your assertion above, constitutions can be, often are, and arguably should be, ratified through popular votes of one sort or another. The problem for me is less that the Irish voted No (I would have preferred them to have voted Yes on the merits of the document) than that the rest of Europe didn’t have a chance to vote at all.

50

Nordic Mousse 06.15.08 at 7:06 pm

“On a quite reasonable theory of legitimation, this means that they should be subject to popular vote – contrary to your assertion above, constitutions can be, often are, and arguably should be, ratified through popular votes of one sort or another”

National elections are “popular votes of one sort or another” too, Henry. They are designed to elect people to make the difficult decisions, not to sidestep them

What would you say if the Irish government ratified the Treaty despite the referendum?

51

Tracy W 06.15.08 at 8:12 pm

Referendums are rare and for good reason and they are almost always about single, simple issues.

Why not make the EU constitutional question into a series of single, simple issues? If a group already has a somewhat functional governing system, doesn’t it make sense to introduce constitutional changes in a piecemeal way, rather than trying to do everything at once? For example, say an Irish voter approved of the removal of national vetos, but thought the list of rights was way too long, how should they vote?

Why does the EU have to be reformed by one big treaty? Is it such a walking disaster area as it is that Europe is going to collapse if the presidency isn’t extended to 2 1/2 years?

If the EU were organized in a perfectly democratic fashion, a million Irish wouldn’t have a veto power over decisions that affect all.

What’s non-democratic about veto powers? As far as I can tell, all democratic systems walk a difficult balancing line between having a government that can get reforms passed and preventing the government from running roughshod over minority interests. I don’t think there’s one right democratic answer to that balancing act.

52

Kevin Donoghue 06.15.08 at 8:17 pm

What would you say if the Irish government ratified the Treaty despite the referendum?

I’m pretty sure the Supreme Court would say sorry guys, you’re ultra vires there. Yes, we elect people to make decisions, but only the decisions they are constitutionally empowered to make. Bush-style deciders they are not.

53

Jim Livesey 06.15.08 at 8:55 pm

The bulk of the critical reaction to the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty falls into two camps, criticising the referendum process as inappropriate in addressing a complex reform measure or expressing frustration with the lack of attention to the actual issues in hand on the part of the Irish electorate. Fintan O’Toole’s editorial in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/14/ireland.eu) summarises both and then throws its hands up in despair at the inability of the people to recognise what it good for them. For all his despair though he underlines that the anti-treaty alliance was heterogeneous and held together by fear. What he does not do is ask what gave an opening to such an odd alliance. If the treaty had a strong political ideal mobilising it then fear would not have had such power.
If you are in favour of democracy as a form of political life and adhere to the ideal of a European Union neither legalism nor frustration is analytically sharp enough as a response to the loss; it needs to be analysed politically. It is easy to get distracted since there are so many interesting and important political elements to the vote. To take the American funding for Libertas as just one example, it is a clear sign that the policy positions of Condoleezza Rice and Robert Kagan, who see Europe as a long-term ally only if European Social Democracy can be undermined, is now guiding policy. Atlanticists of all colours have a new reality to deal with. Such tactical thinking, fascinating as it is, should not get in the way of a more profound critique of the pro-Lisbon case. If it really was such a good idea I find it hard to believe it would have been rejected.
The case for Lisbon was always hollow. It addresses problems in the structures and organisation of the expanded Union cleverly, but refuses to postulate a political vision for the Union. Pro-Union sentiment is animated by cosmopolitanism, but this moral ideal cannot respond to political problems about citizenship and rights. The Union is a fascinating experiment in confederation, it has built a substantial international rights jurisprudence that genuinely protects citizens and shapes the actions of states. It has the cultural and political resources from which a concrete vision of European citizenship could be generated. Instead we have relied on a fuzzy utilitarianism and this is not a compelling vision of a shared life to a community as politically-mobilised as Ireland. The vacuum that exists where an authentically political landscape should be found allows fear to govern decisions.
In the long run Ireland may have done the European Union a favour. The political base of the Union is too weak to carry the structures that have been built on it. We need to have the debate on shared visions of forms of life and the tragic choices between moral visions of the good life that constitutes modern politics. Postponing that debate by building a more efficient Union will ultimately destroy the entire project.

54

virgil xenophon 06.15.08 at 9:11 pm

This to m_appel@37 and asstrongasmaybe a@36: For a
prescient view of a society much like that which
Perry Anderson describes, i.e., one driven by economics alone with everything a derivative of the need to “efficiently” support the process, check out a movie made by Stephen Spielberg (his first, I believe, made while a grad-student in film school at UCLA) in the 70s. It’s a Sci-Fi social commentary set in a futuristic society(now, perhaps?) obsessed with economics as the overriding God with all the enforced social controls over those who would “antisocially” slow down “progress” that such entails–right down to the computer chip in the earlobe. It is entitled “THX1138.” A viewing of it might give one pause about present trends ala ever-present CCTV coverage, common currencies, a seamless web of smothering regulations issued by faceless Kafka-like bureaucrats, etc.

55

Tracy W 06.15.08 at 9:13 pm

It is absurd that 26 nations cannot move forward with a closer and more efficient union because of one nation. It doesn’t strike me as particularly democratic either.

But the Irish, like every other member of the EU, joined the group under rules that did indeed make it possible for one nation to prevent 26 other nations from moving forward to a closer and more efficient union. If an institution has a set of rules for changing its own rules, I think it is quite possibly democratic to stick to those rules. Absurd maybe, but then us humans are often absurd. And, well, once an institution starts changing the rules that alter how it can change the rules, then that’s at least as likely to result in absurd, nondemocratic results as sticking to the rules agreed at the outset.

56

Henry 06.15.08 at 9:46 pm

On legitimacy and the EU, it may be useful to take a look at my 2005 “post”:http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/24/3351/ on the last such crisis. I think it has held up well over time (in the minimal sense that I still agree with most of what I said then, although I am definitely more pessimistic than I was three years ago).

57

Randolph 06.16.08 at 2:15 am

“What’s non-democratic about veto powers?”

In the United States, at least, it has been the defense of slavery and segregation. It remains the safety of many of the greatest scoundrels in our political system.

58

weserei 06.16.08 at 3:43 am

It would have been nice if the Lisbon Treaty had passed, but really. It’s not as though the EU is going to fall apart because of this vote. Even if Lisbon is dead, all that means is a halt on further expansion (which I don’t exactly see the horrors of), and muddling along with the same crappy institutions that not even the European Constitution was really going to make democratic. Should a country really be bullied into throwing away its own constitution so that a few EU mechanisms can be rejiggered (hardly a goal equivalent to abolition)? And if that’s how things are going to be, why should any other nation want to join?

59

gr 06.16.08 at 5:52 am

To the people who claim that the treaty would have been rejected by other countries if there had been referenda in other countries: a) You don’t know how referenda in other countries would have turned out, so don’t speculate. b) The treaty was approved by all the countries that ratified it in precisely the same way in which all other treaties are ratified (or laws enacted) in those countries, namely by the democratically elected representatives of the people. The claim that this is an undemocratic process makes sense, as has been pointed out before by Novakant, only on the assumption that representative democracy is somehow per se undemocratic, which is a nonsensical view.

Perry Anderson may be right, but the people who base themselves on his observation overlook that the treaty would remedy precisely the defects that Anderson decries. Once again: the criticisms are disingenuous.

Finally, to those who claim that it is inappropriate to criticize the Irish decision, I would respectfully submit that anyone who is affected by the decision has the right to criticize it as stupid or morally wrong or whatever. It doesn’t follow from the fact that I have to ‘respect’ the Irish decision that I also have to believe it a good one and that I shouldn’t be allowed to say that I think it’s stupid and immoral. To claim that I (or the evil “Herr Schaefer”) are under such a stricture is rather undemocratic, to put it mildly.

The real issue is not democracy, the real issue is that some people in some countries seem to have the urge to hold on to the fiction that stinking foreigners shouldn’t be allowed to meddle in their affairs. That’s fine as far as I’m concerned, but then you really shouldn’t want to be in the EU or make the claim that you’re committed to democratizing it.

60

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 6:41 am

henryfarrell,

“finnsense, if you are claiming, as you seem to be, that the other member states have all ratified the Lisbon Treaty, then you’re very badly mistaken.”

If you’d read my post I wrote “I’m aware not all the states have ratified the constitution yet by the way, and if other states reject it then it’s a different situation.”

Not quite sure how you missed that, it being quite a short post.

61

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 6:54 am

tracy w,

“If an institution has a set of rules for changing its own rules, I think it is quite possibly democratic to stick to those rules.”

Yes, and if a democratic state votes that greater weight be given to the votes of young blond women, that’s also democratic on your definition. The spirit of democracy is that the will of the majority of the people prevails. Being a member of the EU brings costs as well as benefits. One cost is that a country can’t always act in its own self-interest. If the Irish cannot cope with that, they are not obliged to be in the EU.

62

Tracy W 06.16.08 at 6:54 am

Randolph – when did democracy inevitably result in the right result? Plenty of nasty laws have been passed by majorities in parliaments – look at the land seizures in Taranaki, NZ for example.

63

Martin Wisse 06.16.08 at 7:22 am

55: To the people who claim that the treaty would have been rejected by other countries if there had been referenda in other countries: a) You don’t know how referenda in other countries would have turned out, so don’t speculate.

Neither do you, so stop assuming that the countries that ratified the treaty would’ve gotten yes votes in referenda. Besides, we know that in two countries (France and Holland) the people did vote against the treaty, in its earlier guise of a constitution. Oddly enough the governments of both countries made sure this time there wouldn’t be a referendum.

Some things the treaty-boosters should keep in mind:

1) just because people voted against it out of personal interests doesn’t make them wrong, because I have the impression a lot of the people in the yes camp here and elsewhere assume their personal interests are universal beneficial.
2) don’t assume politicians necessarily know better than the voters what they are voting for with the treaty; it’s too complicated for that
3) Then again, don’t assume the people necessarily rejected this treaty out of spite or ignorance, or because it wasn’t explained properly. The details might’ve been unclear, but the direction the EU would go in with the treaty wasn’t and it was this direction people voted against.

64

Brownie 06.16.08 at 9:13 am

Referenda in other countries were never on the cards. Referendums, yes, but not referenda.

65

john m. (not the other guy who has appeared recently) 06.16.08 at 9:16 am

You know, I genuinely thought the NO vote was a bad thing until I saw the reaction to it. I get very, very twitchy when people start advancing “politician and lawyers know best” arguments – there is a whole stream of them above – basically they all boil down to how your pretty little head could not possibly understand such grown up stuff so go back to your sewing, shut up and trust us.

This is closely followed by the tortuous logic needed to somehow say that the Irish having a vote on this particular subject was undemocratic. Henry’s key point, ignored repeatedly, was a simple one: if this treaty is that important, should ALL of the EU population not have a vote? It is a simple and elegant way out of the current situation:

Have an EU wide vote on the current treaty, including Ireland again if you like or use the current result. Simple majority wins the case. This deals neatly with all positions outlined above. Sure, you can make the (deranged?) tenuous argument that somehow this is less democratic than not letting people vote because at some point some of them voted for their politicians -but why bother with any of this? Have a full EU wide vote and get on with it.

The truth as to why not? Not cost, not incovenience: the very real fear that it would be defeated if not overall, certainly in some of the larger states. The UK is a given for one…the Frewnch already voted down the same thing in another form..and so on…

66

Tracy W 06.16.08 at 9:39 am

The spirit of democracy is that the will of the majority of the people prevails.

Finnsense, in the real world the will of the majority of the people does not necessarily prevail. For example, restrictions on what the government can do, such as requiring respect for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc are often put in place in democratic constitutions so that a small majority would have considerable difficulty in over-turning them. Your “will of the majority” implies that if women, as the majority of the voting-age population, decide that men shouldn’t have the vote that’s quite all right with you. Many other political analysts have thought differently, and made a distinction between what hurdle is necessary to pass normal laws and what hurdle is necessary to pass laws that affect how the laws are made. It’s one thing for a bare majority to vote a 10% increase in the tax rate, it’s another thing for a bare majority to try to set up the voting rules so the minority will never get back in power. That’s been tried in many countries around the world, and based on the results, I think those analysts who advise placing tougher hurdles on constitutional changes than merely “the will of the majority” are wise.

Please, note, I am talking about a balancing act here. Sometimes the rules that govern how the rules are made do need changing themselves. If it’s too easy to make those changes a country can easily head down the route of a bare majority in parliament trying to stop themselves from ever losing that power. If it’s too hard to make those changes, the system is too rigid and eventually explodes. I don’t know how to optimise the change process for constitutions, but I do think the hurdle for changing the rules that govern how the rules are made should be higher than just a bare majority.

Being a member of the EU brings costs as well as benefits. One cost is that a country can’t always act in its own self-interest.If the Irish cannot cope with that, they are not obliged to be in the EU.

Apply your position consistently. All the nations in the EU, not merely Ireland, signed up to a set of rules where they knew that unamity was required to change the rules. Ireland has voted not to change the rules. If the other European countries can’t cope with that, they are not obliged to be in the EU.

I am also surprised that, for someone who presents yourself as a strong defender of democracy, you apparently think it’s okay to dismiss democratic results because a country didn’t sacrifice itself for its own self-interest. I am even further surprised that you apparently think the Lisbon Treaty is a bad thing for Ireland, since you criticise the Irish for acting in their own self-interest.

67

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 10:02 am

john m,

“The truth as to why not?”

The truth as to why not is because this automatically gives the power to the people of the EU, which is what the “no” camp want to avoid. The Irish are bound by their constitution to have a referendum on whether such arrangements should be accepted.

68

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 10:13 am

tracy w,

I argued that 5m Irish setting the agenda for 450m Europeans was undemocratic. I think whatever majority you need for your reforms, 98% – 2% should be big enough. Actually, I am in favour of the double-majority system proposed in the – you guessed it – Lisbon Treaty.

I am not dismissing the Irish results either. I am not suggesting we ignore them, merely that if that’s the way the Irish feel, they should leave the EU.

Lastly, I think the Irish think they acted in their own self-interest. They are also due to become a net contributor to the EU pot rather than a beneficiary (which they have been for 20 odd years – and handsomely so). It could thus be argued that at least in strictly financial terms, it is no longer in their interest to be in the EU. Given that they are in this positon because other countries like the UK, Germany and France put them there at their own cost, it’s exceptionally selfish of them to not do the same.

69

Alex 06.16.08 at 12:01 pm

And yes, I am indeed a raving and screaming eurosceptic: so much so that I’m a member of UKIP.

Are you really? That’s interesting, and has been noted.

Politcal Union : single European army, increasing pervasive influence of Roman Catholic church, EU President Tony Blair : NO

This is a honking great strawman.

And Doug: you’re right.

More broadly, everyone knows the union won’t stop as a result of a treaty referendum, so it’s a completely cost-free opportunity for people like yer man from Libertas to make profile.

70

Martin Wisse 06.16.08 at 12:11 pm

Brownie, brownie, it’s bad enough you’re clueless about politics and ecconomics; must you reveal yopur cluelessness on other subjects as well?

71

gr 06.16.08 at 12:34 pm

To 66: You seem to have a reading comprehension problem. I didn’t claim that the treaty would have gotten yes votes in referenda in other countries.

As a matter of fact, I made the following two claims: a) We don’t know whether Ireland’s no voters represent the attitudes of the majority of EU-citizens. b) We do know that the treaty has been ratified by the parliaments of most states. What is more, ratification by parliament is not normally considered to be an undemocratic procedure. After all, it is the standard form of legislation in a democracy.

For what it’s worth, the claim that Ireland’s no voters represent the attitudes of a majority of EU citizens (which I take to be the implicit view of those who go on and on about how the Irish are the only people who were asked) does not strike me as terribly plausible. After all, most people in most countries, by all accounts, don’t seem to have a problem with the treaty, as was pointed out before by someone else. The reference to the French and the Dutch referendum on the constitution is certainly not sufficient to show that a majority of EU citizens would have rejected Lisbon if there had been an EU-wide referendum on the treaty.

But even if there were conclusive evidence for the claim that the majority of EU citizens would have rejected Lisbon, you’d still have to explain why ratification by parliaments should be considered undemocratic. I take it that you wouldn’t deny the obvious fact that parliaments often enact national laws that wouldn’t survive national referenda. Is that undemocratic too?

72

gr 06.16.08 at 12:35 pm

Sorry, the reference in my previous post is to 63.

73

stostosto 06.16.08 at 1:50 pm

I think there is a pronounced lopsidedness inherent in the entire framing of this type of referendum. Neither the consequences of a Yes or No vote seem clear to most voters, but it appears that the more risky proposition is a Yes. If you vote Yes, the thing goes forward and you won’t be asked again. If you vote No, you simply continue as is until such time when the need for change might reveal itself with sufficient urgency.

Hence, uncertain voters will go for the pereived safer option of voting No. Better safe than sorry.

It was the same with the Danish referendum on whether to adopt the Euro (the currency, not the football competetion) in 2000. We have an opt-out courtesy of our 1992 No vote to the Maastricht treaty, and this referendum was on whether to do away with that opt-out. Many voters thought: well, if we give up the krone now, we’ll never get it back. But if we don’t, we can always go for the Euro at some later date if it becomes urgent/favourable/desirable.

I am convinced you need some kind of crisis that any Treaty move can be described as a cure for, otherwise voters will be risk averse and No will be the default answer, thank you very much.

74

john m. (not the other guy who has appeared recently) 06.16.08 at 2:45 pm

Does anybody understand finnsense’s post (#67) in which he posits that the reason the powers that be have decided not to have an EU wide vote is because this will give the power to the people of the EU, which the NO camp wants to avoid…in other words, no EU wide vote because this is what the NO camp does not want. Eh?

75

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 3:02 pm

john m,

Read closer – no EU wide vote because that presupposes what the vote is supposed to decide. It is thus illegal (or legal but an opinion poll and not a referendum).

The Irish do not care what the EU in general thinks. They care about giving away their sovereignty – which is an Irish question.

76

john m. (not the other guy who has appeared recently) 06.16.08 at 3:34 pm

Ahh…I see what you mean finnsense, but I meant a vote in each EU state. While each state would have a separate vote, I think there would a compelling argument for the acceptence of a simple majority, morally if not legally. (Could you have a vote to accept the vote (or frame it this way)?)

Anyway, the unfortunate truth is that some of the other states would vote no, creating all sorts of problems for the pro-treaty folk – I really do not think it was the anti treaty forces who have gone to such lengths to avoid a popular vote in each EU state. However much some of the commenters above wish it not to be so, the rejection of the constitution by France and Denmark was the genesis of the Lisbon treaty as the EU moved to create a treaty that would avoid votes being necessary in most countries. Ireland had to have one and is now being caned for daring to say no…

77

Cian 06.16.08 at 4:34 pm

#71: I take it that you wouldn’t deny the obvious fact that parliaments often enact national laws that wouldn’t survive national referenda. Is that undemocratic too?

Of course it is, how could it be otherwise. As to whether this is necessarily a bad thing is a different point, which is fudged by the way you have framed this. If you think that sometimes governments have to make undemocratic decisions in the best interests of their citizens, then why not simply state that?

For what it’s worth, the claim that Ireland’s no voters represent the attitudes of a majority of EU citizens (which I take to be the implicit view of those who go on and on about how the Irish are the only people who were asked) does not strike me as terribly plausible.

Perhaps, but given how the elites of the EU’s other members have made the decision not to ask their citizens in a referrendum, this does rather suggest that they don’t share your optimism. why do you think that France would vote any differently a second time, or that the UK would vote ‘yes’?

78

Mrs Tilton 06.16.08 at 4:51 pm

Finnsense @68,

They are also due to become a net contributor to the EU pot rather than a beneficiary (which they have been for 20 odd years – and handsomely so). It could thus be argued that at least in strictly financial terms, it is no longer in their interest to be in the EU. Given that they are in this positon because other countries like the UK, Germany and France put them there at their own cost, it’s exceptionally selfish of them to not do the same.

Wow. So few words, so much crap to unpack.

1) By your reasoning, it has never been in the interests of the net contributor member states to be in the EU. So I expect we’ll soon see you standing alongside the swivel-eyed loons urging everybody to get out of the EU, or something.

2) How do you arrive at the equation “rejected the Lisbon treaty” = “will selfishly refuse to stump up once it’s a net contributor rather than recipient”? The only way Ireland would selfishly renege on its responsibility to contribute is if it left the EU. And the only person here advocating that they do so is (ahem) you.

3) What is “exceptionally selfish” of Ireland? Not refusal to contribute to the pot, because they’re not refusing that. Rather, what you seem to be saying — no, what you are explicitly saying — is: “Because the richer EU states gave Ireland a lot of money back when it was poor, it is exceptionally selfish of Ireland not to do what Kouchner and Finnsense tell it to do now.”

It’s a bit ironic. On balance I would have preferred the treaty be accepted. I strongly support integration and want a constitution for Europe. (A proper one would be better, but I’d even have settled for this reanimated zombie corpse of Giscard’s bloated monstrosity.) And it’s deeply unfortunate that the spittle-flecked madmen, foetus-fetishists and fascists can regard the rejection as their victory. Still, the sheer wankery of those now throwing their toys from the pram because Ireland has declined to obey the commands of its betters is appalling.

79

lemuel pitkin 06.16.08 at 5:02 pm

the sheer wankery of those now throwing their toys from the pram because Ireland has declined to obey the commands of its betters is appalling.

I have a question for Henry, Mrs. Tilton, or anyone else: where is this anger coming from?

I can certainly see the arguments for a “Yes” vote, but what I don’t see is the source of the emotional investment. What’s the cathexis?

80

astrongmaybe 06.16.08 at 5:09 pm

What Mrs. Tilton said @ 79, with an added footnote: were their logic to be applied at home, German politicians lecturing the “ungrateful Irish” should be considering the exclusion of the Eastern states (and Northern bankrupts like Hamburg or Bremen) from the Bundesrat. As beneficiaries of transfer payments, these states shouldn’t really have the right to vote against the wishes of their historical benefactors in Bavaria, Baden-Württemburg, etc.

81

Akshay 06.16.08 at 5:31 pm

Lemuel@79: I don’t think most pro-treaty Europeans are furiously angry at the Irish. The anger of some of them comes, I think, from opposition to petty nationalism and xenophobia, which they see as the cause of the NO vote. If you think the causes are more complicated, you will not be angry.

The anger of Sarkozy et. al. probably comes from the Realpolitik recognition that the treaty would have shifted power towards the large member states. Obviously the power politicians of these member states have reason to be angry. Eurocrats are probably frustated at the sheer tedium of EU decision making under the current rules, which in practice require virtual consensus. This takes years and years to achieve.

82

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 8:23 pm

Mrs Tilton,

My post was written in the context of a debate. You ought to read the debate and then you would see I did not advocate the position you are attributing to me.

83

Mrs Tilton 06.16.08 at 11:35 pm

Astrongmaybe @80,

as an aside to your aside, I’d point out that Bavaria’s position as a net contributor to the Länderfinanzausgleich is historical only for very small values of “historical”. Bavaria was a recipient, I believe, thorough the mid 1980s and only became a contributor in 1989. For normal values of “historical”, Bavaria was historically backward and miserably poor; in geological terms it became rich about four seconds ago.

In other words, Bavaria is analogous to Ireland. And it actually does what Finnsense, without justification, accuses Ireland of doing: now that it’s forking it over rather than raking it in, it makes noises about “revisiting” the whole inter-Länder transfer system. (Mind you, I discount most of those noises as Punch & Judy for the bumpkins; I don’t think Bavaria is seriously trying to pull up the ladder, if only because it must understand that its chances of success are nil.)

84

flo 06.17.08 at 1:33 am

@32 “Politcal Union : single European army, increasing pervasive influence of Roman Catholic church, EU President Tony Blair : NO”

“increasing pervasive influence of [the] Roman Catholic church”, can it get any more absurd then that statement? How do you come to such a conclusion?

85

astrongmaybe 06.17.08 at 2:19 am

A footnote to the aside to the aside @83, now that it occurs to me – Berlin did in fact vote against the Lisbon Treaty when it came up for ratification in the Bundesrat a few weeks ago, the only German state to do so. The (ex-communist) PDS somehow forced their Berlin SPD coalition partners into going along with it, as part of some coalition deal or other.

There were some very amusing pictures on the front pages of the Berlin papers of Klaus Wowereit (the SPD mayor, and thus one of Berlin’s delegates to the Bundesrat) voting no, with a sublime expression on his face, part stoicism, part demonstrative dissociation, part pained dignity.

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Tracy W 06.17.08 at 9:17 am

I argued that 5m Irish setting the agenda for 450m Europeans was undemocratic. I think whatever majority you need for your reforms, 98% – 2% should be big enough.

I don’t think it is undemocratic to stick to the rules for altering the rules that the relevant countries all agreed to in the first place. When you start ignoring one rule about changing the rules, that sets a precedent and creates great uncertainty.

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Nordic Mousse 06.17.08 at 8:35 pm

“When you start ignoring one rule about changing the rules, that sets a precedent and creates great uncertainty”

Not at all. If rules could never be changed, you’d be in an awful situation, probably still stuck in the Dark Ages, or worse

The EU is not about to “expel” Ireland, no worry. That’s not what the EU is about

If it was, it would have disembarassed itself of non-cooperative members such as the UK long ago

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F.X. Sean O'Doherty 06.19.08 at 11:28 pm

The attmepted “change in rules” would have taken the democractic means away from ALL of the EU countries. Streamlining and defining values of a ethos in one Brussels mandated form is what the Irish vote was about. You can parse the vote as you wish to what ever outcome you want….but look at the demographics of the vote. The farther you went from Urban area(low vote) to the west(higher participation) the concept of democracy rears its head! When you break an issue down to the community level that exists in Ireland you attain the model that is democracy…..why are you afraid of someone exercising their democratic right within the rules?? What now..change the rules to fit the model you want? if then…kiss democracy goodbye.

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