Tuesday

22nd Aug 2017

New EU deal faces multiple referendum threat

  • The spectre of referendums on the new treaty deal has appeared just hours after an agreement was reached (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

Within hours of arriving at a fragile treaty deal for the eurozone and nine other EU states, the agreement delivering deeper integration is already confronting the spectre of multiple referendums and a host of legal barriers.

Serious obstacles are beginning to materialise in Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania and Denmark, while Finland, Latvia and the Czech Republic may also present the process with additional hurdles.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Asked repeatedly by reporters whether the transfer of powers to Brussels contained in the deal would provoke a referendum in Ireland, the country's prime minister, Enda Kenny, refused to comment, saying only that the question first required a consultation with the attorney-general.

However, Irish Europe minister Lucinda Creighton this morning told Reuters that it was a toss-up whether a vote would be necessary.

"I would say it's 50-50 and we will be looking at the detail over the next couple of weeks," she said.

Elsewhere in the eurozone, Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte insisted to reporters that a referendum in the Netherlands - where a referendum on the European Constitution in 2005 delivered a surprise No vote - would not be needed, as it concerns "no big new deals" but only "the cap-stone in the construction of the euro."

However, other parties in parliament upon which Rutte's liberals depend, have other ideas.

Rutte's minority government normally relies on the parliamentary support of the hard-right and eurosceptic Party for Freedom (PVV), with the exception of issues related to the EU. For EU-related legislation, the government requires the support of the opposition Labour Party.

Until now, the social democrats have agreed to back the government through the crisis, but have in recent days suggested that this tacit support could come to an end. 

Earlier this week, the Labour Party said that new elections were in order if any result of the EU summit amounted to a transfer of power to Brussels.

The PVV, the left-wing Socialist Party and the Greens have called for a referendum. If Labour decides that there has indeed been such a shift in powers and backs the call for a plebiscite, there would be a pro-referendum majority in the chamber.

Austrian officials have also indicated that the creation of a fiscal union would require a referendum.

Outside the eurozone, Romanian President Traian Basescu told reporters in Brussels that the treaty would need a supermajority in the parliament and approval in a popular plebiscite.

"I will meet with parliamentary groups next week and inform them about what lies ahead. In order to anchor the debt brake into our constitution, we need a two-thirds majority in the parliament and a referendum," he said.

However, the leader is committed to pushing through the deal domestically.

"For us it's politically important to join this treaty. There was already a club of 17 [eurozone member] forming and I came out against that a few times."

Meanwhile, Denmark’s new social democratic prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, did not want to speculate about Danish constitutional problems related to participation in the new treaty, but leaders of the other two parties in her governing coalition were quick to say that a referendum might be needed.

Crucially, the governing pro-EU Social Democrats depend on the support of the Red-Green Alliance, a left-wing party that saw the biggest increase in support of any party in the recent elections and a fervent critic of what it argues are the Union’s ‘neo-liberal policies’.

"In reality [the new treaty] will subsume Denmark's economic policy under decisions taken by the EU. It will be done completely on a par with what applies to the euro countries," according to Per Clausen, the parliamentary group leader.

"It must of course mean that the Danish government is preparing a referendum on the euro reservation," he said.

The Latvian government for its part has signed up to the treaty deal, but it only takes 50 members of the 100-seat parliament to demand a referendum on any major alteration of treaties.

The Baltic nation, which has introduced strict austerity measures demanded by the bloc, has seen a loss of 10 percent of its population as emigrants flee the troubled economy. Politicians, which are currently lobbying the EU institutions over the loss of European structural funds, say they feel a sense of betrayal by Europe and may threaten such a plebiscite in a gambit to win back EU aid resources.

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic does not need a referendum for the changes, but the state is home to the bloc's most eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus.

He does not have the power to strike down legislation endorsed by parliament, but there is no firm schedule for his signature and he has the power to drag out the procedure considerably longer than markets may be comfortable with. In 2009, the leader refused to sign the Lisbon Treaty for months.

Meanwhile, although Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said that a treaty change is "not a problem for Finland," the constitutional committee of the parliament has found that a replacement of unanimity by majority voting in the governance of the EU's bail-out funds could result in Helsinki being forced to pay out significant sums without the chamber having any say.

As a result, the committee ruled that such a shift would be unconstitutional. A Finnish official told EUobserver that it would be "impossible" for the government to negotiate this problem away.

Correction: This article was corrected on 11 December to say that Traian Basescu is the President of Romania, not its Prime Minister.

Hungary: UK is alone in staying out of new EU Treaty

Hungary has been "completely misunderstood" on its position on the new EU treaty amid reports it will boycott the agreement together with the UK, the country's EU affairs minister said on Friday.

UK left out as 26 EU countries to draft new treaty

A group of 26 EU member states is to forge ahead with an agreement on tightening economic governance in the eurozone, following a summit in Brussels that saw the UK sidelined after it overplayed its hand. (Updated 1.30pm Friday).

MEPs want 'convention' on EU treaty

The corridors of the European Parliament are alive with talk of possible EU treaty change, a multi-tentacled process that once opened is difficult to keep a lid on.

Majority of French oppose fiscal treaty

A majority of French people are opposed to the recently agreed EU plans for a fiscal compact treaty, with opposition Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande calling for a renegotiation of the text.

Opinion

Macron goes east to test appetites for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

News in Brief

  1. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  2. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  3. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  4. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week
  5. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  6. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  7. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  8. European Union returns to 2 percent growth

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead