The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Debating Ireland’s No Vote – German Style

Posted by rantingkraut on June 15, 2008

Die Welt, one of Germany’s leading broadsheets accompanies an article about Ireland’s No! vote on the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ with a short online poll. The question asked is: “What should the EU do if the Irish reject the Reforms?” The possible answers: 1. Exclude Ireland immediately, 2. Revise the Lisbon Treaty, 3. Continue the Reforms without Ireland, 4. Ask Ireland to vote again.” The possibility that there might be something fundamentally wrong with the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty is not even considered.

This way of reporting is symptomatic for the reaction of Germany’s press. There is a strong tendency to see the Irish as a cantankerous, ungrateful minority, holding up universally desired progress towards ever closer union. This is wrong on quite a few levels.

First of all, it is not clear why a nation which has accepted one particular treaty should also have to accept all subsequent ones. In the case of Ireland, this does clearly not follow from the general objective of ‘ever closer union’.

If anything, the rest of the EU can be said to have accepted an Irish veto on further integration a priori: by accepting membership of a state who requires a referendum for each constitutional amendment, the existing EC member states have implicitly accepted to be bound by such a referendum when further treaties require additional constitutional changes. If this situation had been regarded as unacceptable by existing members, they should have made elimination of the referendum requirement a precondition for Irish accession. They didn’t, so now they have to live with it.

The second point is of course, that the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty has previously been rejected whenever the people where asked. Isn’t it obvious, that if the French reject a Constitution for being too free market and the Irish reject it for fear of higher taxes that the Constitution/Treaty in question is not only universally disliked by the peoples of Europe, but also that the different electorates disagree what any further integration should aim to achieve? Isn’t it obvious then that even closer union is just not desirable?

3 Responses to “Debating Ireland’s No Vote – German Style”

  1. Paddy Bottom said

    Yes, Ireland should leave the European Union, give the aid funds provided by it and let the other member states move forward.

  2. john j said

    “There is a strong tendency to see the Irish as a cantankerous, ungrateful minority,…”

    Well, the Brits have seen the Irish as just that for centuries now…

    On a more serious note, your points are well taken, however one could also make the argument that when Ireland entered the EU the goal of an “ever closer union” was quite clear as well, and the Irish did not object to it then, so now they have to live with it. Also, Ireland has been the recipient of massive EU transfer payments, converting it from one of Europe’s economically most depressed nations into the first row in terms of GDP per capita (higher than the UK GDP per capita, which the Irish cannot help but rubbing in…good for them). I am not saying thet Ireland should thus vote for this EU treaty out of sheer gratitude alone, but it doesn’t hurt to remember every once in a while where Ireland might be today if it weren’t for the EU – and to ensure that it is not biting the hand that quite literally feeds it.

  3. “one could also make the argument that when Ireland entered the EU the goal of an “ever closer union” was quite clear as well, and the Irish did not object to it then, so now they have to live with it.”
    Generally, that’s true. Still, I would think that the meaning of “ever closer union” is substantially a matter of interpretation and would at the time of Ireland’s accession have been interpreted in terms of economic union. Ireland’s constitutional requirements are spelled out much more clearly and unambiguously.
    “I am not saying thet Ireland should thus vote for this EU treaty out of sheer gratitude alone, but it doesn’t hurt to remember every once in a while where Ireland might be today if it weren’t for the EU – and to ensure that it is not biting the hand that quite literally feeds it.”
    Well, Ireland might well join the countries that do the feeding, considering that a country’s or region’s position relative to average income often determines which country ends up as a net recipient of EU aid. Having said this, I see this as a moral case for Ireland being prepared to become a net contributor to the EU budget, now that poorer countries have joined. I don’t see a moral case for accepting the constitution, in particular considering the number of other countries whose people have rejected it when given a chance.

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