The European Union’s Lisbon Treaty is back on track, with the Irish voters who approved the 27-nation bloc’s plans for reform.
On Saturday, the electoral office said that 67.1 per cent of voters had said “yes”, reversing the win last year by the “no” campaign. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
In a hard-fought campaign, the government, business leaders and even celebrities had said a second rejection risked isolating Ireland while it relied on the goodwill of the European Central Bank and foreign investors to pull out of one of the worst recessions in Europe.The Irish approval turns the spotlight on Poland and the Czech Republic, the only two countries still to ratify the treaty.“Today the Irish people have spoken with a clear and resounding voice,” Brian Cowen, the Irish prime minister, said.
“It is a good day for Ireland and it is a good day for Europe.”
The Irish had better understood the second time around what benefits the treaty would bring, according to Cowen.
Because the treaty cannot take effect unless all the member states ratify it, EU leaders have pressed the Irish government to call the second referendum.
Yet voter turnout was reported at 58 per cent.
The country’s prime minister is also relieved by the result, as he would have been likely to lose his job, had it gone the other way. In parliament, his centre-left coalition has lost its technical majority in parliament and is suffering in opinion polls.
The financial situation played a role in the result, according to Jonah Hull, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Dublin. “The last time the Irish voted last year the economy was good and they feared a threat to their national sovereignty from a European super-state, well this time the country is in deep economic crisis and it appears to have changed its mind.”
And EU partners gave assurances to Dublin before the vote, that its sovereignty on issues like taxation, military neutrality and abortion would not be affected by adopting the treaty of Lisbon.
Ireland was the only EU country constitutionally obliged to put the treaty to a referendum.
Other countries still have to vote
On Saturday, Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, said he hoped that his country would ratify the EU treaty “very quickly.”
However, it might take more time to Czech Republic. President Vaclav Klaus said Prague’s ratification was “not on the cards” anytime soon, because the Czech constitutional court has asked him not to take any action until it has ruled on the matter.
A slim chance remains that the Lisbon treaty could run into problems, Deaglan de Bredun, a political correspondent with the Irish Times, told Al Jazeera.
“The ‘no’ campaigners hope that the Czech president will delay long enough for David Cameron [Britain’s opposition leader who is opposed to the treaty] to get in [as prime minister] as expected, that he will have a referendum and they will defeat the Lisbon treaty. But that is a bit of a long shot,” he said.
“If the treaty is not in force when the election is held, and if we are elected, then we will hold a referendum on it,” said Cameron, who is widely tipped to win a parliamentary election scheduled for next June.
The Lisbon Treaty includes more qualified majority voting in the council of ministers, increased involvement of the European parliament in the legislative process and the creation of a president of the European Council with a term of two and half years.
It would also create the role of “high representative for foreign affairs” which would present a united position on EU policies.