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.