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Swedish parliament votes in favor of the Lisbon Treaty

Yesterday, the Swedish parliament voted to approve the Lisbon Treaty (see press release here). After almost 9 hours of debate in the Riksdag, 243 MP voted in favour, 39 against, 13 abstentions (while 54 MP were not present). Apparently large parts of the debate in the parliament centered around issues that are of relevance from the perspective of Swedish national politics. In particular, a recurring issue was the concern about the Swedish model for collective wage agreements. Only recently the European Court of Justice ruled against Swedish unions who had blocked a construction site to protest lower wages being paid by a Latvian building firm (see the decision C-341/05 of 18 December 2007). Luckily a majority of the MPs could be convinced that the Lisbon Treaty has really little to do with these detailed questions but is instead aiming to streamlining the EU’s workings and to also take into account its mainly eastwards expansion.

Seen from a wider perspective, yesterday’s approval of the Treaty means that 25 out of 27 EU member States have ratified the Treaty. All 27 member States have to approve the Treaty before it can enter into force. The Czech Republic still has to decide on whether or not to ratify the Treaty. Here, however, the Constitutional Court is set to decide on November 25 on the treaty’s compliance with the country’s constitution, before the necessary parliamentary vote can be obtained. But even if the Czech constitutional court and parliament would approve the Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force, one would still have to solve the problem of the Irish negative referendum earlier this year. During a meeting on October 15 and 16, the European Council “heard the Irish prime minister’s analysis of the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon and agreed to review the issue in December in order to define the elements of a solution and the approach to take for 2009.” Some of the alternative solutions that are available are the following, listed by the BBC:

  • The countries that have not yet ratified the treaty press on with ratification despite the Republic of Ireland’s No vote. By the time that process ends, a solution for the Irish “exception” might have been negotiated. That might mean an extra protocol with more Irish opt-outs and guarantees on sensitive issues such as abortion and neutrality.
  • The EU puts the ratification process on hold and carries on as before, according to the rules of the existing Nice Treaty. Hopes of the treaty coming into force in January 2009 would be abandoned. The “streamlining” changes, such as the slimmed-down Commission, the new job of EU president and the new post of foreign policy chief, would be put on hold; the EU might resume negotiations on a replacement treaty some time in the future.
  • The EU scraps the Lisbon Treaty, but comes up with a new one, cherry-picking key parts of Lisbon and repackaging them in a shorter version more comprehensible to voters throughout Europe. The ratification process starts again and Ireland holds another referendum. Irish voters did reject the Nice Treaty in 2001 – then said Yes to it just over a year later, in a referendum re-run. But the constitution debacle in 2005 makes that option more difficult now.
  • Countries keen on further EU integration form an informal club inside the EU and a “two-tier” Europe develops. That idea has been mooted by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. Ireland, the UK and a few other countries which prefer a looser union would stick to various opt-outs, without formally ratifying Lisbon.

    Scrapping the Lisbon Treaty altogether is rather unlikely, considering that most countries already did approve it and since almost nobody disagrees with the premise that the EU is in desperate need of a reform. Negotiating an additional protocol which provides for exceptions only applicable to Ireland would still have to pass the vote of the people and thus not be such a safe path. Allowing a two-tier Europe to develop might not be such a bad idea. After all, the legal and political structure of the EU has by now reached such a high degree of diversity that it perhaps is naive to believe that one homogenous union can be established with regard to all relevant political fields. On the other hand, it would be difficult to make any structural changes to the EU/EC that would apply only with regard to some countries.



    1. Sebastian Sebastian 15 December 2008

      The fact that the parliament voted for this, in the middle of the night, hiding it from the public shows how much support EU has in Sweden. A vote for this treaty would most likely end in a 80% victory for those against it.
      This treaty is nothing more than a illusion. Having read it all I can safely say that it does not benefit Sweden in any way. It weakens our already failing economy, it weakens our already failing democratic principles, it opens up our borders for foreign companies to reap our resources.
      This treaty is not beneficial to nations with large amounts of natural resources, a working democracy with little to non corruption, a strong economy and a people who values the principles the nation was founded upon. (Read Sweden)

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