The Irish ‘No’ – Problems and Dilemmas

The problems with the Irish referendum:

  • In any representative democracy a document with 271 pages (479 pages in the consolidated version!) of legal text should never be put to a referendum.
  • The method of EU treaty ratification should be the same in every member state.
  • A very weak YES campaign and a quite strong NO campaign.
  • The NO campaign managed to put popular myths on the agenda (with no link to the Lisbon Treaty or even to the EU) and mobilised voters with fears; it seems as if the YES campaign did not take it seriously and did not prepare an adequate answer. Next time: professional campaigning needed!

The problems of the EU:

  • EU has a communication problem… a huge one! And I would include every national politician in this category. In the last 15 years there were too many politicans that constantly blamed the EU (or better “Brussels”) especially when faced with “surprising” EU decisions – and everyone who is a bit familiar with the EU knows that there is no such thing as “surprising” in this slow bureaucracy … Moreover, it is hypocritical for ministers to blame the EU although they actually had a  veto in the Council…
  • EU summits have been coined and perceived as “battles” over national interests. But what about the “European interest”?  Many politicians do not seem to see the bigger picture… The same is true for European parliament elections: National topics are always more important than “European” topics! And the result? A negative perception of the EU,  … surprise, surprise!
  • The media does not spend enough time explaining EU issues.  European politics need to play a much bigger role on national TV as well as in national newspapers and local newspapers across Europe!
  • Education: Quite important but absolutely neglected! EU is practically not existent in school curricula!
  • Unpopularity of the EU is therefore not only a problem of the EU!
  • The Lisbon Treaty is a compromise based on the lowest common denominator.  And this is the problem why it is such a long document and why it is so difficult to understand.
  • After the failed Constitutional Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty was actually Plan B: So there will be no new treaty and issues such as “number of commissioners” and “voting weights” are not likely to be re-negotiated.

The dilemmas after the NO vote in the Irish referendum:

  • If all other EU members ratify the Lisbon treaty it will be an Irish problem, if one country stops the ratification process it will be a European problem.
  • The dictatorship of a minority vs. the dictatorship of a majority. If ratification continues the EU will be blamed for the latter, if ratification stops it will be blamed for the former.

4 responses to “The Irish ‘No’ – Problems and Dilemmas

  1. Nicely compiled.

    “EU has a communication problem… a huge one! And I would include every national politician in this category.”
    Exactly. “Professional campaigning” as you put it, shouldn’t even be required. The Lisbon Treaty is a trety between governments and as such it should have been explained to the people in the national election campaigns already.
    If the EU is formed above the heads of the people there’s no hope in ever getting that thing running smoothly.
    There’s a severe lack of EU topics in national politics – at least from where I stand – and if european politics is mentioned then mostly if it can be used as a whipping-boy of some sort.

    In so far the question is not so much whether the EU has to handle the accusation of a dictatorship of the majority or minority, but how it can get rid of that “dictatorship” image in the eyes of the poeple. And here national politicians are to make the game.

  2. I agree with pretty much everything you said.

    Concerning the more “professional campaigning” you’d think they are already experienced, because this is not the first time Ireland said no, but obviously nobody has every looked closer at the outcomes and tried to come up with a plan. I do think that with the help of the results of previous referenda it’s possible to receive a YES from the start. 53,4% is not all THAT horrible, even though a no is always bad – I think those 4% that are regularly missing could be won by a smarter compaign. It’s wrong to only focus on Dublin, when you know there are some regions that need some special treatment, because their results are especially bad.

  3. Kosmopolit,

    In my humble opinion, there can be no new vote in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty.

    If and when Ireland (with a leadership given a red card by the electors) is able to formulate its future relationship with or within a wider EU or EEA+, and then to negotiate it, the following referendum will concern the new arrangement (barring a constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by a referendum; Catch 22).

  4. Pingback: Wise words… « Kosmopolit