The Lisbon Treaty has fallen
Max Andersson, MP for the Swedish Green Party and member of the TEAM-board comments the victory of the Irish NO-side.
It fell! The Lisbon Treaty was rejected. The variegated gathering of Irish no-voters succeeded. On the no-side was everything from Sinn Fein, socialists, trade unionists and green grassroots to peace-lovers, catholics and a think tank with roots in big business. They defeated a yes-side that by and large was identical with the Irish establishment. All the big political parties advocated a yes. The media were on the yes-side. EU itself meddled in the campaign, and the European Commission kept back unpopular proposals regarding agriculture and militarization to avoid damaging the yes-campaign. And yet the no side won.
The broadening of the EU-criticism
The variety of the Irish no-side is certainly particularly Irish, but it reflects an international trend. Once upon a time the EU-criticism would be either rightwing or leftwing in different countries, but this division is seldom seen nowadays. Now the EU-criticism can be found in all parts of the political spectrum. This development can be seen in Sweden as well. The important dividing line in the EU-debate is between those who are parts of the political establishment and those who are not.
During the weeks to come we can expect a lot of articles analyzing the reasons for the no-victory. But while I await these detailed analyses based on hard facts from the opinion polls, I ponder the analysis I heard in a youth hostel last summer from the nestor of the Irish EU-criticism, Anthony Coughlan.
Already at that time he foresaw that the Irish yes-side would encounter great difficulties. The Treaty undermines the Irish neutrality and makes it obvious that small countries such as Ireland will loose influence. And unlike the situation at the previous referendums the yes-side had nothing positive to offer to tempt people to vote yes. He predicted that the yes-side would be reduced to using the European group-pressure as an argument and simply try to make the voters feel guilty. And if that is your best argument, there is no easy way to victory.
The failure of Plan B
The big question is: what is going to happen to the Lisbon Treaty now? All EU-countries must ratify the Treaty if it is to come into force. But the European elite has no intentions to respect any referendum that goes against their plans. What usually happens when a country votes no to continue along the road towards a European Superstate is to make the country vote again, or, as in the French and Dutch case, make it accept the proposal without asking the people a second time.
Before the Irish referendum the EU-leaders maintained that there was no Plan B if the Irish voted no. But the Lisbon Treaty is, in fact, nothing but a renamed version of the EU-constitution, that had already been rejected. We are in the middle of Plan B, and Plan B has failed.
The step-by-step model
We cannot be sure that EU dares to try the same tricks again. It is more likely that large parts of the Lisbon Treaty will be implemented by numerous minor changes under the present treaty rather than by rewriting the Lisbon Treaty and risking new referendums. Those parts of the Lisbon Treaty that cannot be carried through in this way can be smuggled in via a new accession treaty with Croatia, Plan C for Croatia, so to speak.
This is unfortunately a likely scenario, but it will also mean that the EU’s total lack of democratic legitimacy will become apparent to all. The EU-constitution has already fallen twice. It is time for it to rest in peace.
The need for a new Convention
What should be done instead is to appoint a new Convention that, without any preconditions, can work out a brand new proposal for how EU is to be governed, what tasks shall be assigned to it and how the competences shall be distributed between EU and the member states. Of course every member country shall have a referendum about this proposal. And the Convention shall consist of people with independent ideas about European questions; unlike the previous Convention it shall be made up of ordinary people instead of elderly politicians with strong inclinations to constructing the United States of Europe.