The long awaited report on the underlying causes of the No vote on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland has been published. You can read the complete report here: “Post Lisbon Treaty Referendum Research Findings (.pdf)”
Here some key findings:
- The main reason for abstaining in this referendum was lack of understanding/knowledge (46%), which is far in excess of any other voluntary or circumstantial reason given for not voting.
- Much of the Yes vote is underpinned by a strong general feeling of pro-Europeanism rather than Treaty specific motivations.
- Twenty-six percent of No voters mentioned Treaty specific elements that were of concern to them.
- The main reason cited for voting No was ‘lack of knowledge/information/ understanding’ at
42%. There can be little doubt that this emerged as the primary reason for people voting
- At a wider level, an EU knowledge deficit is clearly present which has undoubtedly contributed to the No vote. Knowledge of EU institutions and how they work appears to be particularly low. The difficulty of advocating a referendum that is based on the premise of institutional reform in this environment is apparent.
So, the report suggests that a lack of knowledge/information/understanding was the main reason for the referendum outcome: At the same time there seems to be little willingness to do something about it:
- Despite not having a good understanding of how EU institutions operate, there was fairly limited appetite for additional information, particularly among younger group participants. Few felt that they would realistically take the time or go to the bother to inform themselves in any great detail. Older group participants (those aged 35+), were more open to learning more and felt that if the EU was going to become more important to Ireland then it was important for them to be better informed.
Let’s have a look at the ‘issues’:
- ‘No’ voters were far more likely to believe that erosion of Irish neutrality, end of control over abortion and conscription to a European army were part of the Lisbon Treaty, revealing key cracks in the debate.
- Loss of Commissioner was also a common concern on the No side.
- When asked directly, respondents cited the issue of protection of workers’ rights as being
“very important” more often than any other issue (of a defined set of issues) relating to
Ireland and the EU. Retaining control over public services in the future was similarly cited.
- Concerns over specific aspects of the Treaty loom large, particularly perceptions of an erosion of neutrality, the Commissioner issue (which many do not seem to properly understand), Corporate tax and to a lesser degree abortion.
Well, the report clearly did not come up with any surprising results. Most of it has been debated over and over again. So I will not get into the debate whether referendums are useful (hint: they are not!) or whether the Lisbon treaty is too complex (hint: yes it is!) or whether the EU is a big conspiracy theory (hint: it is not).
However, one question is of course still the same: What to do now? – A new referendum on the same text? No new referendum and a parliamentary ratification followed by an referendum on one or two treaty issues? A new EU treaty and negotiations from scratch? A kind of “Irish Protocol” that addresses the problematic issues despite their irrelevance? The report only suggests that any new vote on an unchanged document would have a negative result again.
The only certain fact is the existence of the “EU knowledge deficit” which is probably a widespread problem everywhere in the EU. I think this is a structural problem that needs to be addressed on different levels: The EU should be included in school curricula and there needs to be a better media coverage and reporting of EU affairs. Of course local, national and European politicians need to explain the role of the EU with more honesty. At the same time the EU needs to engage more people in debating European issues, some institutional reforms would also be helpful … Ok, enough wishful thinking for today!
Posted in Kosmolinks
Tagged blogging, EU, EU Reform, Europe, European Union, Germany, Ireland, lisbon treaty, No, politics, referendum, SPD, WIA
Interesting how Gordon Brown defends the EU and the Lisbon Treaty: Conviction or tactics?
Jean-Claude Juncker, PM of Luxembourg made a few interesting comments at a conference that took place in Brussels just one day before the European Council:
“Politicians give the impression that Europe is being built against their will. Governments always try to explain in their countries that they have won against Europe”
And asked about a possible Plan B…
“In fact the Lisbon Treaty was the Plan B of the project for a European Constitution. If we still change the text, it will be a very small B”
And he goes on explaining the reasons for the mess we are in:
“Europe is not sufficiently proud of what it does (…) and the reason is that no government in particular can claim the merits from these achievements. Since governments like to attract the public’s attention only on their own achievements and not on common achievements, nobody speaks about common achievements.”
Let’s hope he will also have a word with his collegues at the European Council! Oh yes, and he seems to be a reader of this blog…
Joschka Fischer: Das vereinte Europa ist gescheitert
Joschka Fischer has no hope anymore…
- Wolfgang Munchau – Europe’s hardball plan B for the Lisbon treaty
“An alternative would be a referendum with a differently worded question, such as: “Do you want to remain in the EU on the basis of the Lisbon treaty?” Of course, this bundles two questions many people would like to answer separately. Yes, stay in the EU, No to Lisbon. But folding the two into a single question is politically more honest because it is Ireland’s only real-world choice.”
- Robert Kagan – In Europe, a Slide Toward Irrelevance
Robert Kagan’s take on the Irish ‘NO’ – basically what you would expect from him, but also with a few good points.
- The fear factory devastated Ireland’s flaccid political class
“You forgot us in Shannon.” — “Our sons are too good-looking for the army” –“right-wing Catholics” — “leftwing anti-militarists” — “a mysterious group that emerged from nowhere with a great deal of money to spend” — “Imported British Euroscepticism” — “a very efficient factory of fears” — “an extensive menu of anxieties” — “the scattergun of negativity only had to hit one sensitive spot”
- Will Hutton: Europe must not be derailed by lies and disinformation
“On top of these there is the political problem that the treaty can’t be rewritten to accommodate specific Irish concerns because it already does; Ireland’s ‘no’ campaigners told lies. The voters’ great concerns had been met. There is a specific protocol that guarantees Ireland’s neutrality and excuses it from membership of any joint European defence effort, if any surfaces. There is no possibility of Ireland being told to enforce abortion. And all states have autonomy over tax policy.”
The Irish “no” and the rich-poor/urban-rural divide
“The Irish ‘no’ – like the 2005 French ‘non’ – shows a clear poor/rich and urban/rural divide. Working-class and rural voters are systematically voting against further European integration. European leaders should take note.”
DJ Nozem: Euroblog Coverage: The Irish ‘No’
A handy round-up about the Irish ‘No’ in the blogosphere…
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!
- 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.
Posted in European Debate, European Union
Tagged constitutional treaty, EU, EU politics, EU Reform, Europe, European Union, Ireland, lisbon treaty, No, politics, referendum
- “A fashionable idea is circulating among Balkan-watchers: “Belgianisation”. This is not meant to suggest complex federalism. Instead it implies that different nationalities whom history has left sharing a state are at last behaving like Belgians, reaching for ballot boxes and courts, rather than guns and bombs.”
Lisbon Treaty faces rejection as No vote doubles in latest poll
It is gonna be a close race. And it seems that No voters don’t know anything about the treaty: “The reason most often cited by No voters is that they don’t know what they are voting for or they don’t understand the treaty – with 30 per cent of No voters listing this as the main reason for their decision.” I have argued before that referendums and uninformed publics do not go well together, moreover referenda over several hundred pages of legal text will never cause any enthusiasm… Let’s see on Thursday…
Brussels Blogger : Comments on the logo of the French EU Presidency
The logo of the French EU presidency…it is actually quite ugly…
Get involved over Georgia or invite a war
“The west could be sleepwalking into a war on the European continent. Georgia, which burst into view with a moving display of democratic ambition during the Rose Revolution of 2003, is teetering on the brink of war with Russia over the separatist Georgian enclave of Abkhazia. The outcome of this crisis – involving a fledgling democracy with aspirations to join Nato and the European Union – will help determine the rules of the post-cold-war security system. But western diplomats are not sending strong enough signals to either side.”
Posted in Kosmolinks
Tagged Balkans, Belgium, CFSP, Chad, council, EU, European Union, french, georgia, Ireland, lisbon treaty, macedonia, presidency, referendum, Russia