And speaking of that EU deal… July 30, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Union, Irish Politics.
We’re sort of thrashing around the issue in an interesting but not necessary conclusive manner here, but come the day come the news in the Irish Independent that: Our top EU post saved in new plan for Lisbon
Well, as Cian noted over on Irish Election, that may be news but it ain’t novel. For the outlines of the ‘new plan’ look surprisingly like those considered hitherto.
The Government is considering a second vote in autumn 2009 — but this time with assurances on a commissioner, abortion, taxation and neutrality.
The details? Well none really yet forthcoming, but:
The complex plan would involve extending the term of the current European Commission by several months. Irish voters would effectively be told their vote would save countries from occasionally losing their commissioner — if the Government goes down this route.
So what is this miracle of complexity?
The plan would involve:
- A European Commissioner for each country.
- A delay in the appointment of a new Commission.
- Written assurances of no interference on abortion, neutrality and tax.
- Some EU countries (not Ireland) losing even more MEPs next year.
Actually it doesn’t seem particularly complex to me, or at least no more complex than those famous one pagers that Albert Reynolds supposedly demanded on any single issue (wise man, I tend to agree despite my own wordiness that you can boil things down reasonably easily). Bar of course the delay in the appointment of a new Commission. And what about the idea that some EU countries will lose more MEPs next year. Presumably this is a function of the European elections being run under the Nice constraints rather than those of Lisbon. As regards the ‘written’ assurances, well, indeed. So reminiscent of Nice.
Still, a number of things are interesting. Firstly the timing:
After the resounding ‘No’ vote last month, Government and European figures now acknowledge the prospects of Ireland sorting out its stance on Lisbon before next summer appear remote.
And this is supported by some of the talk in Europe, as noted by Fionnan Sheahan:
When a wily old head like Jean Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and Europe’s longest-serving leader, says as much, then his counterparts should sit up and listen.
“My sense of reality tells me that the Lisbon Treaty will still not be in force in the middle of 2009. I fear that the Irish people would view another referendum in the spring as a surprise manoeuvre,” he said in recent days.
Yeah, my ‘sense of reality’ concurs. In fact I think a referendum before 2010 would be a much better idea still, not least to give room for the Irish people to determine whether this ‘complex’ plan is sufficient to address their concerns. Which brings me to the second interesting point about it, or at least the report…
Irish voters would effectively be told their vote would save countries from occasionally losing their commissioner — if the Government goes down this route.
So, from being advised by the No campaign in the run-up to Lisbon that their vote would not merely deliver a better deal for Ireland but also send a message of solidarity across Europe the spin would be that now the Irish voter would be the saviour of representation at Commissioner level – and not merely, but also, there would be the instructive sight of the European Elections next year labouring under the Nice constraints to concentrate minds.
I don’t know. Sheahan notes:
If the Government is still going to put forward a second referendum — and it’s still a big ‘if’ — then the assistance of his European counterparts will be required.
But interesting noises from the deck of the Fianna Fáil ship. For at the Oireachtas European Affairs committee:
…former government minister Mary O’Rourke said it would be a “very foolish route we’re going if we think we can have another referendum”.
She believed that if the Lisbon Treaty was to be accepted, it would have to be “passed in some other fashion because a referendum won’t work”.
I wonder first is she on message, and if so what precisely that message is? And another intriguing comment at that forum:
Chairman of the Forum on Europe Maurice Hayes has staunchly defended the body against attempts to “scapegoat” it in the wake of the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty.
He wondered how it was that political parties could capture up to 85 per cent of the vote in a Dáil election, “but can’t get 50 per cent” in a vote on Europe.
He pointed out that the Yes campaign was 10 per cent ahead at one point. “Then the three political party leaders came out together and instinctively you would think it would go up, and the opposite happened.”
Yes, it’s a real puzzle, isn’t it?