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Second attempt at ratifying the Lisbon Treaty

During the meeting of the Council of the European Union on 11 and 12 November agreement was reached with regard to a European Economic Recovery Plan (including a 200-billion-euro ($264 billion) pact to revive the battered economy), an energy/climate change package (reaffirming the commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and promote renewable energy), and decisions aiming to give new impetus to the European Security and Defence Policy in order to meet the new security challenges. But what is also important is the “new” approach that was negotiated regarding on how to proceed with the Lisbon Treaty. According to the conclusions of the Presidency of the European Council, the Council “re-affirms that the Treaty of Lisbon is considered necessary in order to help the enlarged Union to function more efficiently, more democratically and more effectively including in international affairs”. The conclusions then go on by defining the path that is supposed to lead out of the current problematic situation: (I) Provided the Lisbon Treaty enters into force by the end of 2009, a decision will be taken to the effect that the Commission shall continue to include one national of each Member State. This point is something that not only will help the Lisbon Treaty to be met with support by Irish voters but moreover with that of citizens of smaller member-States that feared that they might lose influence in the EU because they could, in the future, lose a voice in the Commission. (II) The Council also makes the assurance that nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon makes any change of any kind, for any Member State, to the extent or operation of the Union’s competences in relation to taxation. This is supposed to address the fear that many citizens had on a potential interference of the EU in member-States’ tax policies. (III) It’s underlined that the Lisbon Treaty “does not prejudice the security and defence policy of Member States” (so no, young people in Ireland will not have to fear to be drawn to serve in a “European Army”). Not only Ireland, but also e.g. Sweden is very protective of its traditional policy of neutrality. Despite this assurance from the Council, however, the EU will soon have to deal in more detail with its common security and defence (!) policy as the EU is expected to act on the international scene with one voice. (IV) The Irish Constitution, it is also emphasized, is not in any way effected in relation to the right to life, education and the family. The Irish abortion ban was one issue that was discussed in this regard during the referendum in July.

The idea behind all this of course is that the Irish will get a second shot at deciding on whether or not their country should ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Sometime next year a second referendum will be held. But despite these seemingly friendly words from Brussels, already the residence against the Lisbon Treaty is once again lining up. Libertas, the anti-Lisbon Treaty campaign group is already setting new and ambitious goals for next years elections for the European Parliament. At the same time, certain voices point out that a new vote on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland reveals “a basic misunderstanding of democracy next to which the EU’s other problems pale”. What could possibly have changed that would make a new vote justified? And why aiming for a vote altogether if the political leadership is not willing to settle with a particular turnout of the vote (apparently Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach/Prime Minister of Irealand, does not intend to take “no” for an answer from Ireland’s voters)? One could of course claim, like Britain’s minister for Europe Caroline Flint did just recently, that Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in July because they did not understand it. If that is the truth, those who support the Lisbon Treaty have some more explaining to do in the second attempt.

During the last couple of weeks there have been a number of developments with regard to the Lisbon Treaty and its ratification in the member-States. On 20 November the Swedish parliament voted in favor of the treaty (we reported) and on 26 November the Czech Constitutional Court decided that the Lisbon Treaty was not in conflict with the constitutional order of the Czech Republic (we reported here and here).

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