27th Mar 2019

MEPs vote in favour of EU treaty

Deputies in the European Parliament have voted strongly in favour of the EU's latest treaty, endorsing a report saying the new document will make the EU more democratic, give EU citizens more rights and improve the day-to-day working of the 27-nation bloc.

Adopted on Wednesday (20 February) by 525 votes in favour, 115 against and 29 abstentions, the three-hour long debate preceding it ranged from those strongly in favour of the treaty to those accusing member states of bypassing EU citizens by not having a referendum.

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Reacting to the vote, Spanish centre-right MEP Inigo Mendez de Vigo who drew up the report on the treaty for the parliament said he was "extremely pleased with the result" and spoke of the EU's assembly's "political impulse" for member states who are currently ratifying the treaty.

He said that Europe had shown "that it can find a solution" referring to the fact that the bloc got itself out of the institutional impasse resulting in the French and Dutch rejection of the original EU constitution almost three years ago.

EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom said the treaty, formally signed in December and due to come into place at the beginning of next year "strengthens Europe's democratic legitimacy".

Some MEPs, mainly British and Danish eurosceptics, protested the vote saying the treaty was essentially the constitution dress up in different clothes and that it should be put to a referendum.

Most MEPs responded to this stance by saying that parliamentary ratification is no less legitimate than a public poll while European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering who has had several clashes with British eurosceptics on this issue in the recent past admonished them by saying:

"If your parents could see you, they would be ashamed."

Don't pick rows

Meanwhile Irish MEPs were out in force during the debate, with Ireland under intense scrutiny across the EU as it is to be the only country to vote on the treaty in a referendum.

Avril Doyle, centre-right MEP, asked EU officials not to tell Irish voters how to vote in the referendum, which is expected at the end of May or the beginning of June.

She also called on the commission to not "pick rows" over administrative issues with Ireland as these fights could be "misrepresented, deliberately or otherwise, by the Treaty naysayers."

Ms Doyle was referring particularly to a recent spat where payments to Irish farmers from the EU rural environment protection schemes were temporarily suspended.

They have since been resumed.

Another issue that has been resolved with propitious timing as far as Irish farmers are concerned is the Brazil beef issue.

Irish beef farmers have been up in arms about imports of Brazilian beef to the EU - beef they say is subject to less stringent controls that EU beef and which is sold more cheaply in the bloc making homegrown meat unattractive.

But a recent EU decision to ban beef from the South American country has been welcomed by farmers, still seen as a significant force in Irish society - and a force that the government would like to have behind the EU treaty.

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