Irish voters have approved the EU’s reform treaty by a margin of two to one, lifting the EU out of institutional limbo after years of democratic setbacks and blockage. All eyes now turn to Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus to sign the treaty.
The final result shows 67.1% of the electorate voted in favour of the Treaty, with 32.9% voting against. This represents a 20% swing towards the ‘yes’ campaign compared to the 2008 referendum. Turnout was 58%, an increase of around 6%.
Pressure on Prague and Warsaw
In Brussels, political parties from across the spectrum are turning up the heat on Czech President Václav Klaus to sign the Lisbon Treaty into law, with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso saying all Europeans had now backed the Lisbon Treaty, either directly or indirectly.
Klaus said he would delay his approval to await a ruling on a constitutional complaint filed by 17 senators against the treaty (EURACTIV 30/09/09).
Speaking on Saturday (3 October), the Czech president declined to say how he would proceed with ratification after the Irish results. “The question does not exist today. Today I have a ban […] until the Constitutional Court releases something,” he told reporters.
Final ratification is also due in Poland, where President Lech Kaczy?ski had said he was willing to ratify the charter if Ireland voted ‘yes’.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he believes the country will complete ratification by the end of the year, a government statement said. “The prime minister […] is convinced that ratification will be completed in a way that the Lisbon Treaty can take effect by the end of 2009,” the statement said.
Many political analysts expect Klaus will be forced under heavy EU pressure to sign the treaty into law before the end of the year, helping the bloc to forge a bigger role for itself as the global balance of power shifts following the financial crisis.
EU summit on 29 October
A summit of EU leaders is planned in Brussels on 29 October, at which Klaus is expected to come under heavy pressure to ratify.
“We have a summit at the end of October and that might be perfect timing for this kind of discussion,” said Fredrick Reinfeldt, prime minister of Sweden and current holder of the European Union presidency.
With the ‘yes’ vote due to be confirmed, the chances of Europe taking a great steps to become a better organised Union with a stronger voice in world affairs dramatically increase.
The treaty would give the EU a long-term president and stronger foreign policy chief.
Economic crisis bolstered ‘yes’ vote
Many voters were thought more likely to back the treaty second time around because of the economic crisis, the impact of which EU aid has helped to curb. The European Commission offered 14.8 million euros to help workers at Dell’s Irish plant on 19 September, just weeks before the vote (EURACTIV 21/09/09).
The mood at the main Dublin counting centre was a far cry from last year, when officials watched in disbelief as voters rejected the reform charter, holding up the foreign policy ambitions of a bloc representing 495 million people.
The atmosphere was calm after fraught campaigning that pitched Ireland’s main political parties against anti-abortion groups, pacifists and British Eurosceptics.
Irish approval represents be a boon for the former ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy, which was spared an Icelandic-style collapse because of its membership of the euro zone. It is still reliant on goodwill from Brussels and Frankfurt for its future recovery.
Many people in Ireland are struggling to come to terms with unemployment, higher taxes and the possibility of lower social welfare payments in the next austerity budget.
Irish borrowing costs would likely drop and its banking stocks rise on Monday if the result on Saturday is a ‘yes’, according to predictions prior to the ballot.
EURACTIV’s Gary Finnegan has been following developments by the minute on his
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(EURACTIV with Reuters.)