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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Aug 23, 2010 - 8:24:15 PM

Lisbon Treaty: Europe's Plan B if ratification ends at 26-1; Cowen faces tough choices
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Jun 16, 2008 - 6:22:16 AM

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In 1961, French President Charles De Gaulle said "Non" to Ireland's application to join the European Economic Community, when Sean Lemass was Taoiseach. Ireland became a member of the EEC in January 1973, less than 3 years after De Gaulle's resignation as French President. Just over 35 years later, rich Ireland said "NO" to Europe - that had grown from 6 to 27, through the generosity and vision of the founding members - - Time Magazine cover from July 1963, following the State visit of US President John F. Kennedy, to Ireland.

Lisbon Treaty: If the ratification process by the parliaments of the 26 members of the European Union proceeds from the current level of 18 to 26, Taoiseach Brian Cowen will face tough choices.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier has suggested Ireland take a "break" from the EU to allow other member states continue with integration.

Steinmeier suggested that"Ireland could exit the integration process for a time to clear the way for the Lisbon Treaty to come into force in 26 countries".

"We would have to see with the Irish at the end of the ratification process how we could make it work and what legal arrangement we could come to,"said French EU affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet after the Irish No vote.

German Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit said Irish No voters "don't give a shit" about the EU and feared that the Lisbon Treaty would "open the door to gay marriage and abortion".

He said in comments to Der Spiegel that the treaty could still be salvaged and that Irish voters should be asked again"if they really want to stand to one side and block everything".

"I'm sick of phantom debates, I want clear decisions about what's to become of Europe," said Cohn-Bendit.

"I want to see a future before me."

Former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna, says that the Taoiseach should be telling other EU leaders that Lisbon is dead. She is reported to have said that the EU must go back to square one and negotiate a new treaty that would include both sides of the debate on the future of the Union. We could end up with a modern version of  the debate about the comma in the Nicene Creed  and if the current world trade talks produce an agreement, Ireland will be asked to veto it, if it does not please the Irish Farmers' Association - hardly a scenario that would be welcome at a time of possibly a recession.

The slogan "No to Foreign Rule" was not devised by people who realise that a country, which depends on foreign firms for over 90% of its exports, can ill afford such ignorance.

It may suit individuals with a personal ambition who wish  to be elected to the European Parliament next year, to keep the pot boiling - -  the irony of aching to get a job at the heart of Europe, while undermining Ireland's influence there, should raise its own questions - -  but thousands of private sector workers will lose their jobs in 2009 and they will have little to fall back on.

As for EU26 ratification, the Czech Republic has reservations about the Lisbon Treaty but if in coming months, Ireland is the only member that has rejected the Treaty, Taoiseach Brain Cowen is likely to have an unpalatable choice - -  risk another referendum or accept an arrangement where Ireland becomes a semi-detached member on some issues.

The argument that Irish democracy should be respected and accepted, can be countered with the very valid case that in a community of 490 million, the ratification in 26 democratic parliaments, is surely a very strong endorsement.

One of the arguments of the NO campaign was that Ireland would cease to have a commissioner in some five-year Commissions as the number appointed would be reduced from 27 to 18.

The rejection of the Treaty means that under Article 213 of the existing EC Treaty as amended at Nice, a reduction in the number of commissioners must now happen in 2009 (not 2014, as under the Lisbon Treaty).

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