Posted by: rbbadger | October 4, 2009

Ireland Votes “Yes” to the Treaty of Lisbon

A few years ago, there was an attempt to create a Constitution for Europe, at least one for that part of Europe which belongs to the European Union.  Most European countries accepted the proposed constitution, though both France and The Netherlands voted “no” in national referenda.  It seems that those who drafted the EU Constitution aren’t prone to give up easily.  Instead of a constitution, a new treaty was proposed.  This treaty, in substance quite similar to the proposed EU constitution, would not require referenda in all but one state.  And that state was Ireland.  In 2007, the prime ministers (with the exception of France whose president did the honours) signed the Treaty of Lisbon.  All that was left was member states to ratify it.

The Irish Supreme Court decided back in 1987 that for Ireland to ratify any major changes to the treaties of the European Union, there would need to be a referendum on those changes.  Thus, all eyes were on Ireland in 2008 as they voted against the Treaty of Lisbon.  The EU, not about to take no for answer, instructed Ireland to hold another referendum.  This time, with the economy in dire straights and with a not insignificant amount of pressure brought to bear on Ireland from the EU itself, the Irish voted 60% in favour of ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon.  They were the only country which had a referendum on the treaty.  It seems, quite frankly, undemocratic.  Because Ireland did not vote the “right” way, which in Brussels (headquarters of the EU) means voting they way Brussels wants them to vote, they must have another referendum until they do.  And all indication are that they did.  There were threats of punitive measures.  Ireland has benefited from its membership in the EU.  The access to the common European market has done good things for their economy.  Sadly, though, Ireland’s economy has taken a massive beating.  Two of the worst performers during this economic crisis have been Ireland and Spain, both of which were mired in sub-prime banking woes of their own, not to mention America’s.  So, the economic crisis, the threats from Brussels and elsewhere, and other factors must have weighed heavily on people’s minds this time around. 

Now, all eyes are on the Czech Republic.  They have not yet ratified it, as President Klaus hasn’t signed it yet.  He indicated that he won’t sign it until Ireland does.  With the voting complete, Ireland will now proceed on its ratification.  Currently, some senators of the Czech Republic filed a brief with the Czech Supreme Court which may take six months to determine.  There is a great deal of pressure on President Klaus to sign it, but he may just wait for the ruling of the Supreme Court.  Additionally, if the government of Gordon Brown falls soon and the Conservatives take power as expected, the UK may withdraw its own ratification and put the whole thing up for a referendum of their own.  There is a general election upcoming for April or May next year.  If the Supreme Court in the Czech Republic takes that long to decide the case, then there may well be a UK referendum. 

Doug Bandow, of the Cato Institute, has written about what may happen once the Treaty of Lisbon is in effect.

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