Thursday, June 12, 2008

Could Ireland KO EU union treaty?

A couple of years ago, it were referendums in France and the Netherlands that derailed a draft constitution for the European Union. Now, another country has the potential of stopping the whole process over again, in regards to a revised text for a union treaty, in this case the Treaty of Lisbon. That country is -- the Republic of Ireland.

It could be a very close vote, with the "No" side having picked up a lot of momentum the last week or so. It is rather interesting though, that a country with about a quarter of the population of the Dutch and that like the Dutch and the French uses the Euro currency could derail the whole process and send the 27 presidents and prime ministers back to the drawing board.

I'm not sure about all the issues, but I do find it interesting that people do want to hold on to whatever sovereignty they may have left; that they are not just a star on someone else's flag. The EU has been overall a remarkable success story, one of the greatest of the last century and continues to be so in this century; but somewhere one of the founding principles of the Union in 1957 of subsidiarity -- that decision making should be wherever possible be done close to the people -- was lost long ago.

A no vote might also be a big morale boost to those in the UK who also oppose further integration, in particular with the Euro. Interesting since the financial district in London for all intents and purposes operates with the Euro and not pounds sterling for 90% of transactions.

While adopting the Euro might make sense for the UK in the long run (especially since the bulk of its trade is now with Europe and not the Commonwealth), I suspect that a referendum on the issue (which has been promised at some undefined point in the future) would be excruciatingly close and would definitely be voted down in Scotland and Northern Ireland where banks print their own bills (really promissory notes tied to the sterling) since such would not be possible in the Eurozone and only one set of coins could be minted representing the whole of the UK and not separate ones for its constituents parts.

The main thing though is that people in only one country this time around, just one, are being asked their opinion; unlike the other 26 where there is merely a ratification vote in the respective national parliaments. What is so wrong with putting a treaty of such scope to the people? Take the Euro, for example. It's proven mostly successful but I don't remember the French or the Italians or the Belgians being asked their opinion about abandoning their currencies. There is still strong sentimental attachment to the Deutschemark in Germany and the Lira in Italy for obvious reasons. And there's something lost in the Gorda lottery in Spain every year when the kids are singing songs about the prizes in Euros and not pesetas.

The Irish were and they said yes; the Danes and Swedes were at different points in time and they said no for the time being. There's something wrong that people in most of the other countries were not asked about giving up one of the ultimately expressions of national sovereignty, money. The same applies about ceding further power to a bunch of commissars in Brussels. Let the people, not just their representatives, decide on this one.

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