Tuesday

6th Dec 2022

Opinion

After the Irish said No

  • There is nothing undemocratic about a new referendum (Photo: EUobserver)

Ireland has said "No", but there are 26 other member states whose opinion matters too.

It is inconceivable that all of the others will simply say "too bad - one country has said ‘No' to the package as it stands, so let's forget reform and stick with the current system for evermore."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

All member states want reform. Even the ‘No' campaigners in Ireland claimed they want to negotiate a better package.

So, what is to be done? First, Ireland must have a profound internal debate to identify precisely what it is they don't like about the Lisbon Treaty. Presumably it is not the extra powers for parliaments, nor the clearer focus on combating climate change, but some other aspects. If they can identify what those are, then they can ask the other member states for help in addressing their concerns.

Like Denmark

This, after all, is precisely what Denmark did after their initial rejection of the Maastricht Treaty. They said to the rest of Europe that they didn't want to blow up the whole edifice, but that they would come back with proposals to find a way out.

They identified four items in the Maastricht package that they didn't like, the other member states were able to meet their concerns (without, by the way, needing to change the treaty to do so) and Denmark then approved the treaty by a comfortable majority in a new referendum.

Several concerns raised in the Irish debate can easily be met, not least because they were unjustified fears.

The treaty does not affect Ireland's abortion laws, it does not change their ability to set their tax rates, it does not oblige them to send troops to a European army and it does not change the EU's negotiating stance on agriculture on the WTO.

Such fears can be assuaged without needing to change the treaty, by clarifying declarations or, if necessary, additional protocols.

Loss of a Commissioner

Other concerns might be more difficult. The loss of an Irish Commissioner (for one Commission out of three, as of 2014, as for every member state) was an issue, but special treatment for Ireland would be difficult.

After all, they and the other small countries were victorious on that point in the negotiations on the treaty in ensuring equal rotation, irrespective of the size of countries.

Note that the current treaties, if left unamended, would anyway require a smaller Commission - but without an agreed rotation system and already in 2009.

Whatever the issues are, it should not be impossible to address the bulk of Irish concerns.

If this can be done without having to alter the treaty - which would require a new IGC and renewed ratification in all the counties (now nearly 20) that have ratified already - then so much the better.

New referendum

Nor should we accept the bleating from Eurosceptics that there is somehow something undemocratic about a new referendum.

It is perfectly reasonable to address a divergence in the positions of the 27 EU countries by asking the minority of one to think again - especially if its concerns have been addressed. What would be undemocratic would be to allow the one to prevail over the many.

Of course, no-one relishes the prospect of still more debate and negotiation on the minutiae of the composition and functioning of the EU institutions.

Achieving a solution acceptable to all 27 countries may not be easy. But an even worse solution would be to abandon all reform.

A poorly functioning EU, failing to deliver on behalf of its citizens, is in no-one's interest.

Sweeping the necessary reforms under the carpet because you can't even be bothered to explore the possibility for a compromise would do nobody any favours.

The author is a UK Labour MEP

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals

This global tax rate for multinationals could yield up to €64bn annually. Yet, the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán has been blocking it for months. The impotency of the EU to strike a deal is irresponsible and incomprehensible.

EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals

This global tax rate for multinationals could yield up to €64bn annually. Yet, the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán has been blocking it for months. The impotency of the EU to strike a deal is irresponsible and incomprehensible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  2. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  3. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies
  4. EU: 'We'll see' if Moscow actually stops selling oil over price-cap
  5. Bad Karma
  6. Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia
  7. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  8. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us