Green Light from the Emerald Isle? Questions and Answers about Ireland

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“A ‘no’ in the Irish referendum would simply be a catastrophe for Europe,” argue Dominik Hierlemann and Christian Heydecker of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

The Irish are set to vote on the Treaty of Lisbon on 12 June 2008, yet for the time being it is difficult to predict the result due to the high number of undecided voters, argues the May study. 

Hierlemann and Heydecker underline the important duty of Irish politicians to ensure their citizens approve the Lisbon Treaty, particularly highlighting the role former finance minister and new Taoiseach Brian Cowen has to play here. 

Both the governing parties, Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats, are telling the electorate to vote in favour of the referendum, as are opposition parties Labour and Fine Gael. 

Sinn Fein is “the only [party] in the Irish parliament” to “openly reject the Reform Treaty,” say the authors. Despite “Ireland’s positive attitude towards European integration,” the country is concerned by a number of sensitive issues outlined in the paper. 

Ireland fears it could be “at a disadvantage in the area of police and judicial matters” when decisions are taken “based on qualified majority,” the authors state. 

Meanwhile, Irish policymakers have expressed their dissatisfaction over the French government’s announcement that it plans to introduce corporation tax assessment principles in the EU, describing the proposal as “untimely, unhelpful and inappropriate,” reports the study. 

Dublin’s tradition of neutrality is another hot topic addressed by the authors. In fact, French initiatives in the field of European security and defence policy were a major factor in the government’s decision to schedule the referendum before the French EU Presidency assumes office in July 2008, reveals their paper. 

Moreover, the ongoing WTO talks are a cause for concern among Irish farmers who have threatened to say ‘no’ in the referendum, according to the authors. 

Hierlemann and Heydecker conclude by recommending a number of alternative options for the EU to pursue in the event that the Treaty is rejected by the Irish: 

  • Ask the Irish to “give their assent to the Treaty” after “an appropriate period of time”, 
  • amend the Treaty, 
  • offer Ireland “new opt-outs” or; 
  • “abandon its attempt to introduce comprehensive treaty reforms”. 

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