Thursday

19th Sep 2019

MEPs in passionate war of words over Irish No

Supporters and opponents of the Lisbon Treaty in the European Parliament have crossed rhetorical swords in a debate over the consequences of Ireland's No to the document, with several Irish MEPs saying their country alone cannot decide for the whole bloc.

After the Irish rejection featured in several diverse discussions throughout this week's plenary session in Strasbourg, the assembly held a debate dedicated exclusively to the issue on Wednesday (18 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

With all eyes on the EU leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday, Janez Lenarcic, secretary of state for European affairs for Slovenia, currently chairing the 27-strong bloc, told MEPs that the continued ratification of the treaty looks likely to be supported by all participants at the top-level meeting.

"The presidency has held talks with countries which have not yet ratified the treaty, and it is quite encouraging to see that those countries are ready to continue the ratification process," said Mr Lenarcic.

The same approach was advocated by the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who argued that the energy the EU had put in to drawing up its internal reform "cannot go to waste."

"I do not think that we can rush into a premature decision about the next step. We need to take the time to find a real consensus and see what is possible for Ireland. But equally we should not take too long," said Mr Barroso.

EU nationalism?

But the idea of a possible re-run of the vote - with some deputies suggesting it should be before the June 2009 elections to the EU assembly - met with strong opposition from critics of the treaty.

"You ignore the voters, you are destroying democracy, and you have shown that you will stop at nothing," said Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, accusing mainstream politicians of creating a "new phenomenon" he termed "EU nationalism", which he went on to characterise as "the most dangerous political phenomenon to have swept Europe since 1945."

His statement was applauded by several eurosceptic deputies, wearing green T-shirts and holding posters urging their colleagues to "Respect the Irish vote."

But their staged protest sparked anger, particularly among some Irish MEPs. Centre-right deputy Avril Doyle commented that support from Britons over respecting the Irish vote was rather late.

"How things could have been different if only our British colleagues had come to this conclusion a century ago."

Brian Crowley, an Irish MEP from the rightist UEN group argued that while Ireland's vote should be respected, "we must also respect the wish of other countries if they want to move forward in the EU integration. It is not up to us to dictate to anybody," he noted.

Some other Irish parliamentarians criticised foreign campaigners from the No camp for distributing "lies" among the Irish voters, including that the Lisbon Treaty would introduce euthanasia or weaken the ban on abortion in the prevailingly Catholic country.

Pro-Europeans have lost passion

Head of the Socialists, German MEP Martin Schultz, said that the events in Ireland show that pro-Europeans have fallen behind in showing support for the EU project.

"Anti-Europe camp has got a soul," he said, adding that what used to be "passion" for Europe at the earlier stages of EU integration has "now emigrated to the other camp."

Mr Barroso blamed national governments for tending to treat Europe and EU institutions as "convenient scapegoats" for negative developments, which he said "leaves fertile grounds for populist policies."

But he defended Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy who had been criticised by Mr Schulz for widely proclaiming that he had not read the Lisbon treaty.

Mr Barroso said that while he viewed his colleague's comments on his lack of knowledge of Lisbon Treaty as "not particularly fortunate", Mr McCreevy should not be singled out for criticism.

"It would not be a good way to foster a good dialogue with our Irish friends," said Mr Barroso, pointing out that the document was backed by Mr McCreevy's constituency in Ireland, where he personally went to promote it.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

Those tricky commissioner candidates in full

Three central European commission nominees can expect to feel the heat from MEPs later this month, with the Hungarian candidate emerging as the most controversial.

News in Brief

  1. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  2. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  3. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  4. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  5. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  6. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution
  7. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  8. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  2. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  3. A new Commission for the one percent
  4. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  5. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  6. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  7. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  8. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us