19th Feb 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.

Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.

Calls for Tajani's resignation over Slovenia, Croatia row

The European Parliament's Italian president referred to Croatia and Slovenia as former Italian regions at the weekend, sparking outrage. Although Antonio Tajani apologised, somer former leaders and MEPs are now calling for his resignation.

MEPs call on EU countries to deal with Hungary

MEPs who launched a procedure examining the democratic situation in Hungary last year now want member states to step up efforts. The government in Budapest meanwhile accuses MEPs of attacking Hungary over migration.


France and Germany hope to revive EU with Aachen treaty

In the face of attacks on the liberal world order and the EU, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron renew German-Franco cooperation - but their lack of political capital prevents bold visions or ambitious goals.


Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.


The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  2. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  3. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  4. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  5. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  6. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  7. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  8. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us