Friday, October 09, 2009

Ireland Votes “Yes” for the Lisbon Treaty

Huffington Post: EU’s Lucky Charm: Ireland Supports Lisbon Treaty—Now What? Lisbon Treaty Hangs in the Balance as Ireland Votes
BBC Europe: Q&A: The Lisbon Treaty
Europa: Treaty of Lisbon: Questions and Answers

What is the Lisbon Treaty?
The Lisbon Treaty seeks to replace the European Constitution in an effort to modernize and reform the functionality of the European Union (the “EU”). The three basic tenets of the Treaty are to (1) increase efficiency in the EU’s decision-making process, (2) increase democracy by giving member state parliaments greater roles, and 3) strengthen the EU’s external coherence.

Why is Ireland’s Vote Important?
On October 3, Ireland voted for a second time on the Lisbon Treaty, a referendum that overturned Ireland’s June, 2008 “no” vote. Ireland agreed to vote again in exchange for guarantees that the EU will not force Ireland to adopt new EU laws on taxation, family, and Irish state neutrality, and that every EU member state will maintain its own commissioner indefinitely—a change from the original plan to reduce the number of commissioners as early as 2014.

Each of the 27 member states must ratify the Treaty before it is adopted and its provisions are implemented. After Ireland ratified the Treaty this week, the Czech Republic and Poland remain the only two nations left to ratify it. Ireland was the only country to hold a referendum because of an Irish Supreme Court decision ruling that any EU treaty amendment constitutes a de facto amendment to the Irish Constitution that requires a national vote.

How is the Treaty Different from the European Constitution?
The Treaty ends the six-month rotating presidency and instead establishes a two and one-half year EU presidential term. A more permanent president will help increase EU membership, address problematic hierarchical issues, and provide a more stable image for the Union. The Treaty will also establish an EU diplomatic corps that will create an EU Human Rights Department and increase coherence in Europe's foreign policy, defense, and trade policies.

The Treaty will provide for new legislative tools such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights that will determine the EU’s civil, political, and social rights. It will also provide a mechanism for interacting with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

Another legislative provision of the Treaty provides for a shift in EU voting rights to a “double majority” requiring 55% member-state approval, constituting 65% of the EU’s population. This new decision-making process will increase the acceptance and adherence to sensitive areas of the law like asylum and immigration.

Why Did Irish Voters Vote For or Against the Treaty?
Some Irish voted “yes” because they feel a stronger European Union will collectively help the Irish government and economy, especially during a recession in which Ireland was hit particularly hard. Others think Ireland’s increase in tourism is a result of a more popular, stronger Europe and hope to capitalize on Europe’s strengths. Big businesses’ pleas that Ireland stay connected to Europe also positively affected the vote.

Some naysayers rejected the Treaty because they think that the second vote improperly usurped the results of the 2008 referendum. Others rejected the Treaty for nationalistic reasons, such as fear of losing military independence or as a tribute to the leftwing Irish Citizens Army who fought for independence against the British.

1. Has the economic chaos of the past year been helpful to those who support a stronger European Union?
2. Are the countries with smaller populations that were hit hard by the crisis, and that were resistant to stronger EU economic ties because they thought their small size prohibited them from power, now looking for shelter in the EU?


Christina Humphreys said...

It is very interesting to me that Ireland needed extra guarantees from the EU in order to adopt the Lisbon Treaty. Why do you think Ireland was averse to conforming to Lisbon Treaty standards without the extra guarantees? Do you think it has something to do with the unique composition of Ireland voters?
I imagine the "no" vote in 2008 had a lot to do with archaic Irish family/divorce laws and an overwhelming population of Irish Catholic voters who didn't want to be in violation of the treaty should they adopt it. In Ireland the Divorce Act requires that two people who wish to divorce must live apart and be totally separated for at least four years. Even after you have surpassed that hurdle, the Irish court must be satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect that the two will ever be reconciled. If the Irish court does not make this finding, they will not issue a divorce. An additional hurdle is that divorce proceedings are waiting games, as each proceeding is heard in front of the Irish High Court (and it can take a while to be heard as you can imagine). Divorces are rather difficult to obtain in Ireland for a reason; these hurdles were put in place in order to discourage Irish divorces because there is a strong stigma against divorce in the Catholic tradition (the dominant religion in Ireland).

Megan W. Murray said...

Wow, how interesting. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I had no idea that Ireland had such a tough divorce requirement. (How do you prove to a court that you will never, ever, get back together with someone? Do you burn their house? Spit in their face? Doesn't that requirement force two people-who just don't want to be married-to get nasty with each other just to effectuate a divorce?)
I don't know much about Irish law, but I imagine that if it has such strict divorce requirements, it may also have other unique laws it wanted to protect. The votes could also be motivated by Ireland's size and its smaller economy. I presume that the country didn't want to lose its voice.