The Lisbon Treaty No-Vote: An Irish Problem or a European Problem?
22 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2009
Date Written: January 23, 2009
The Irish No vote to the Lisbon Treaty has been presented by Europe's political leadership (including Ireland's political leadership) as essentially an Irish problem. In other words, the no vote was said to reflect concerns specific to the Irish population, and the solution proposed was for the Irish Government to suggest ways for the EU to respond to these concerns so that the Lisbon Treaty could be ratified. This paper examines the reasons why Ireland's no-vote to Lisbon in 2008 was treated so differently from the French and Dutch no-votes to the Constitutional Treaty in 2005. On that occasion, the no-votes were quickly recognized as a collective European problem rather than as a specifically Dutch or French problem, and it was not long before the Constitutional Treaty in its original form was declared to be dead. The paper argues that although there may have been many plausible reasons for distinguishing between the Constitutional Treaty no-votes and the Lisbon Treaty no-vote, the EU strategy of treating Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty as primarily an Irish problem is a short-sighted one. Ireland's no-vote is merely the latest manifestation of an ongoing crisis of popular legitimacy in the EU, and the European Council's strategy of treating it as essentially an Irish problem is part of the ongoing failure of Europe's political leaders to acknowledge the link between this crisis of popular legitimacy and the deliberately de-politicized nature of the European Union.
Keywords: European Union, Lisbon Treaty, ratification, Irish referendum
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation