by Frank Schnittger
Wed Nov 19th, 2008 at 07:50:55 AM EST
Government set to decide on second Lisbon vote - The Irish Times - Sun, Nov 16, 2008
The Government will make a decision on holding a second Lisbon Treaty referendum before a meeting of EU ministers next month, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said today.
Micheál Martin said the Government will table proposals at a European Council meeting next month to deal with the impasse following the Irish electorate's rejection of the treaty in a referendum last June.
"We want to be at the heart of European decision making," he said. "That would enable us to have some impact on decisions into the future and that would strengthen our hand in negotiations on agriculture and budgets and so forth."
Mr Martin said the Government has yet to make a decision on holding a second referendum. "The Government will make that decision in advance of the December meeting," he said.
Earlier this week, Mr Martin dismissed speculation about forcing Ireland from the European Union if voters reject the treaty a second time.
The so-called "Norwegian option" of reducing Ireland to associate member status has been floated by senior German foreign ministry officials as a means of clearing the way for the ratification of the treaty.
"We are at a turning point in our relationship with Europe and, as a Government, we will offer advice that future generations are better at the heart of Europe than at the margins," said Mr Martin.
"But the Germans are very committed to Lisbon, they are not leaving us in any doubt about that."
The Norwegian suggestion was, he said, "not in any room of consequence".
So take that, you nasty "senior German foreign ministry officials"!
Promoted by DoDo
The Germans seem to be playing a double game: Martin rejects talk of Ireland being forced out of EU - The Irish Times - Fri, Nov 14, 2008
Mr Steinmeier denied such a "Norwegian option" had been floated, saying that Berlin would "naturally give Ireland time to make the necessary decision".
He suggested that recent world developments, in particular the war in Georgia and the financial crisis, had "encouraged new thinking everywhere in Europe that perhaps this EU does have a greater value than many have assumed in recent years".
Annoyed Irish officials view the "Norwegian" remark as an unhelpful distraction in the domestic debate and grist to the mill of Lisbon opponents.
"We don't know what the Germans are playing at," said one. "The message they were giving us before was, 'don't be ambushed by Sarkozy', now here they are at it themselves."
Since the failure of the Irish referendum, the foreign ministry in Berlin has been sceptical of the chances of a second vote, and had never believed such a vote would be possible before next year's European Parliament elections.
Yesterday, one long-term observer of the foreign ministry described the "Norwegian option" as an "old-school Schröder scare tactic".
Mr Martin remarked that such a tactic "doesn't work and won't work".
Chancellor Angela Merkel's office was surprised to hear of the foreign ministry speculation yesterday. "I have no time for threats and what-if scenarios in the case of a second failure," said the chancellor's spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm.
"On the contrary, I am confident that the Irish Government and people will find a common path that is good for Ireland and . . . for all EU member states."
Several other EU member states, including Sweden and Germany's eastern neighbours, have already indicated they would oppose even discussing such a proposal, which they view as a worrying precedent.
At yesterday's meeting Mr Steinmeier made clear that, in Berlin's opinion, Ireland can have whatever opt-outs and clarifications it wishes, and in whatever form it requires, once it does not reopen the Lisbon package and require countries that have already ratified it to do so again.
Without Lisbon, Germany will not agree to any further enlargement of the EU even though it may be technically possible with the Nice rules.
That raises the pressure on Ireland if, with Croatia already knocking on the accession door, Iceland requests EU membership as an alternative to accepting Russian loans to prop up its economy.
If a second referendum is not held next year, Ireland will, by Berlin's reckoning, enter the last-chance saloon in the spring of 2010, with British parliamentary elections due and Conservative leader David Cameron promising an EU referendum.
German officials are at pains to stress that they are still optimistic for a successful second referendum.
But analysts at think tanks in Berlin report hearing senior German and EU officials openly discussing such a "Norwegian option" at conferences.
"For them, this is no longer science fiction but a real option," said Jan Techau, director of the Alfred Oppenheimer Centre for European Policy Studies.
"What I find interesting about it is that they aren't ashamed to be so forthright about it even if it sets a catastrophic precedent that will generate nothing but ill-will and defiance in Ireland."
So those nasty double dealing German officials don't care about upsetting the Irish any more?
Meanwhile in polls...
Poll gives second Lisbon referendum chance of passing - The Irish Times - Sun, Nov 16, 2008
A second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty has a chance of being carried, according to a new Irish Times /TNS mrbi poll which shows a swing to the Yes side since the referendum defeat last June.
The poll shows a change in public attitudes since June with 43 per cent now saying they would vote yes, 39 per cent no and 18 per cent having no opinion.
In the poll, people were asked how they would vote if the Treaty was modified to allow Ireland to retain an EU Commissioner and other Irish concerns on neutrality, abortion and taxation were clarified in special declarations.
A 4% margin in favour - with 18% don't knows - is hardly a resounding margin. A lot will depend on how the campaign is conducted and on the ultimate turnout. The collapse in the Governments popularity to unprecedented levels will also not be helpful to a yes vote - although perversely, the loss of confidence in the Irish Government may also sharpen awareness on our dependence on the EU to help dig us out of a very big economic hole.
However the Renegotiation of treaty will not happen, says Wallström - The Irish Times - Fri, Nov 14, 2008
RENEGOTIATION OF the Lisbon Treaty is not going to happen, a Dáil committee was told yesterday.
Margot Wallström, vice-president of the European Commission, said it was unrealistic of Ireland to believe member states would engage in a renegotiation.
"My impression is, that door is closed," she told the Sub-Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union.
So it was rather strange when she then suggested that
On the issue of the need to reduce the numbers of commissioners in the Commission next November, Ms Wallström said that would have to happen under the Nice Treaty. But she hinted at the possibility of the issue being revisited, should the Lisbon Treaty be ratified. She said she believed every member state needed to have a commissioner.
"What you gain in efficiency you lose in legitimacy," she said. "Let's see how this can be resolved in the future."
Given that restoring a Commissioner to each country would require a revision of the Treaty, this rather negates her previous point. Perhaps she is just clearly laying out the limits of any possible renegotiation. If so, that shouldn't be a problem, given that all the other issues which arose in the first referendum campaign can be dealt with by way of a "Decision" on the Danish Model:
Dr Gavin Barrett, UCD Dublin European Institute .... suggested that the Danish-style "Decision", an agreement introduced at the Edinburgh summit in 1993 to allow Denmark to ratify the Maastricht Treaty, might offer solutions. He said a "Decision" would be outside the treaty and would not need to be ratified by other members, but would be legally binding. It could contain clarification on issues of concern to Ireland. It would offer a "belt and braces" solution, he said.
My view has always been that the best option for the Irish Government would be to hold a second referendum at the same time as the EU Parliament and Irish Local elections in June. This would have the effect of significantly increasing the turnout and reducing the risk of a more mobilised and motivated "No" campaign carrying the day. (The EP elections would have to be carried out under the old Nice rules).
Irish voters, more angry at their own Government than they are with the EU, could split their vote by voting for the Referendum and against Government candidates in the EU Parliament and Irish Local elections. In fairness, the Irish electorate has often been quite discriminating in the past in how he wields the scalple on a very unpopular Government.
Indeed, if the Governing Coalition unravels much further, we could be having a general election in June as well. However Irish Governing Political parties (the recently deceased Progressive Democrats notwithstanding) are not in the habit of committing hari-kari - and would certainly face a resounding defeat in a general election held any time soon. In the time honoured fashion they will "hang together" rather than be hung out to dry by the electorate and hope that things improve in due course.
The extreme sensitivity of the situation was highlighted when the Czech president's State visit ends on acrimonious note - The Irish Times - Thu, Nov 13, 2008
IN AN acrimonious end to his State visit to Ireland Czech president Vaclav Klaus accused Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin of being a "hypocrite", while a number of leading Irish politicians accused Mr Klaus of an unprecedented breach of diplomatic courtesy.
Mr Klaus, whose country takes over the EU presidency in January, made his comments after Mr Martin accused him of an "inappropriate intervention" on Tuesday night. Mr Martin was referring to the joint press conference held in Dublin by Mr Klaus and Libertas founder Declan Ganley at which they criticised the Lisbon Treaty.
"Such hypocrisy I cannot accept," Mr Klaus was quoted as saying in Dublin by the Czech Republic's CTK news agency. "If someone doesn't please me, I will say so to his face - and not behind his back."
In the Dáil, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny criticised the Czech president. "It is inappropriate and an embarrassment for the Government in the context of where we stand in Europe and our future in Europe," said Mr Kenny. "Perhaps the visit should have been cancelled altogether," he added.
Labour Party spokesman on European affairs Joe Costello accused Mr Klaus of "an act of unprecedented diplomatic discourtesy by a visiting head of state". "I am well aware that Mr Klaus is an extreme right-wing figure who likes to court controversy," said Mr Costello, who added that a dignified but firm diplomatic protest about the president's behaviour should be made to the Czech government.
The Minister of State for European Affairs, Dick Roche, said Mr Klaus's description of Mr Ganley as a dissident was "misguided, misinformed and insulting" when applied to a state which had an unbroken tradition of democratic political life and free debate.
"Given the type of business activities that Mr Ganley has been involved with, the comparison is not simply over-the-top but an insult to the selfless men and women that challenged communism," said Mr Roche.
Let the fun and games begin! Generally speaking, the Irish electorate doesn't take kindly to being told what to do by visiting Heads of State - especially when on a State Visit - and Vaclav Klaus' dinner and Press Conference with Libertas President Declan Ganly could be construed as interference in Ireland's internal political affairs. Mr. Martin may well be a hypocrite, but he is our hypocrite! I suggest we invite Vaclav Klaus back just before the referendum in order to inspire the pro-EU vote! Declan Ganley's professed intention of setting up a pan-European Eurosceptic party also won't sit well with the Irish electorate - who remain solidly pro-EU.
If the Commissioner, abortion, tax and neutrality issues can be taken off the table by a combination of the Danish Maastricht precedent and a commitment to restoring a Commissioner to each country, the second Referendum will be re-cast as a vote either for the EU or for a Ganleyite Eurosceptic re-nationalised collective of Sovereign nations. On that basis I believe a second referendum would be passed despite the unpopularity of the Government and general annoyance at being asked to vote on basically the same Treaty twice.
But it could be a close call, and it would be helpful if the EU could show greater leadership on the Global Financial crises and recession in Ireland and the Euro area in the meantime.