In a couple of days Ireland is going to hold a referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty.
From what I gather, the Lisbon Treaty is supposed to be the replacement for the EU Constitution which was rejected by a couple member states a couple years ago. Irish law requires that an amendment to its constitution (which is somehow linked to its membership in the EU) must be voted on by its citizens.
Polls suggest that the YES and NO camps are pretty much evenly split with a large chunk of undecided voters. Who will win? Most of the government seems to be on board with the treaty however, many in the NO column say that they will vote that way because the treaty has not been explained to them—why vote yes on an unknown?
If the Irish vote NO, the Lisbon Treaty would be dead. Apparently every member has to ratify this treaty. And that’s where I think Europe may be taking the wrong approach.
The whole EU Constitution issue reminds me of what happened in the late 1780’s with the united States of America. (Yes the “U” was intentionally left in lower-case.) With the Articles of Confederation failing, the Founding Fathers needed a new government which is how the present U.S. Constitution came about. Only nine of the thirteen states were required to ratify the Constitution in order for it to go into effect. And even then, only the signers would be bound to it. For example, if Rhode Island or the Republic of Vermont decided not to ratify the U.S. Constitution, they would remain sovereign states although they would find themselves outside the new Union.
If the EU wants to get things done, they are going to have to play some hard ball with their members who are uneasy about strengthening the bloc. They should be willing to say to Ireland, or Greece, or any other state, “well if you don’t like it… fine we’ll leave you in the dust.”
In the American experience, a hold-out state like Massachusetts would have found themselves in an uncomfortable position had they not ratified. Oh they were perfectly free to decide to hold on to their sovereignty but they also had to decide whether that sovereignty was worth the consequences.
This is not to say that I think that the Irish should be pro EU treaty or not. It is their country and they should do what they think is advantageous for them. I actually admire that their country allows this to come up for a vote.
I am interested in seeing how the voice of a tiny island country will determine the potential history of an entire continent.