CEPS debate on Irish referendum

Irish voters are called to vote on the Nice Treaty for a second time on October 19. Their vote might actually decide on the timing of enlargement.

Two high-profile Irish representatives expressed their views on the Irish vote during a debate organised by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 3 October.

John Gormley, Member of the Convention and Member of the Irish Parliament, expressed his view that the outcome of the first vote should have lead to change some aspects of the Treaty. He gave few reasons that motivated and could motivate the no vote:

  • the issue of neutrality: the Treaty provides for bringing defence policy into the Union structure. Some voters fear that this will affect the Irish policy of Neutrality;
  • the lack of enthusiasm: when the Treaty was signed, it was heavily criticized from all sides;
  • confusion on the European project: there has never been a proper debate on the future of Europe in Ireland.

He concluded by saying that the no vote should encourage the politicians to produce a better Treaty. He expressed his confidence that, despite a no vote, the enlargement will go ahead and that the Commission has certainly thought of contingency plans in this case.

John Bruton, Member of the Presidium of the Convention and Member of the Irish Parliament, pointed out the positive aspects of the Nice Treaty for Ireland. He stressed that the Treaty would give his country more say in the EU (guaranteed Irish Commissioner, overweight representation in the Council of Ministers and in the Parliament). He also stated that enhanced cooperation and extended qualified majority voting provides for a Union that works well.

John Bruton said clearly that a no vote could endanger the enlargement process and called on the Irish voters to vote yes. He said “I wish we would have been a bit more generous, like the Germans have been over so many years”.


The Nice Treaty provides for the necessary dispositions for the accomplishment of enlargement. The main dispositions are on:

  • reweighting of the votes in the Council of Ministers;
  • increasing the ceiling on the European Parliament from 626 to 732 in 2004;
  • capping the size of the European Commission at 27;
  • extending majority voting on some issues;
  • allowing groups of eight or more countries to forge ahead with closer co-operation in certain areas;
  • laying groundwork for a rapid reaction force.


In June last year, 54% of the Irish voters rejected the Treaty. A new referendum will be held on 19 October.

The approval of the Treaty would allow its entering into force.


Irish voters will vote on the Nice Treaty on 19 October.



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