Irish voters have overwhelmingly approved the European Union’s controversial Lisbon Treaty, a document that will forever change the dynamics of European (and potentially global) politics. The “yes” vote comes just 18 months after Irish voters gave the “wrong” answer by rejecting the treaty in a first referendum.
According to the final results, 67.1 percent of Irish voters approved the treaty, while 32.9 percent voted “no.” Turnout in the three-million electorate was 58 percent.
During the past year, the Irish government has faced intense pressure from an irate European political establishment, which demanded a second referendum that would produce the “correct” answer. Dublin achieved the desired result by playing on public fears over Ireland’s faltering economy, which is expected to contract by a shocking 10 percent this year. It also warned that Ireland would be “pushed out” or “left behind” in Europe in the event of another “no” vote, a disconcerting prospect for a country traumatized by the second-highest unemployment rate in the EU.
Ireland, which accounts for 1 percent of the European Union’s 500 million population, was the only one of the EU’s 27 member states to put the Lisbon Treaty to a public referendum. Twenty-four other EU countries quietly rubber-stamped the treaty in their parliaments, which has proved to be a far less risky route than direct democracy to get the document ratified. The leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic, the only two remaining holdouts, will now be induced to ratify the treaty as quickly as possible (the parliaments of both countries have already approved the treaty) so that the grand European project can proceed apace.
The Lisbon Treaty, also known as the Reform Treaty, is nearly identical to the European Constitution, a document that was soundly rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Among many other innovations, the 250-plus page Lisbon Treaty will establish a permanent EU president (Tony Blair?), a European foreign minister, and a European Union diplomatic service. The agreement also paves the way for the covert creation of a European army by way of a mutual defense clause called Permanent Structured Cooperation.
Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty obligates EU nations to surrender their sovereignty in many areas to centralized decision-making; and it reduces national veto rights to allow more decisions to be made by majority voting instead of by unanimous consent.
The Lisbon Treaty is the stunning culmination of more than 50 years of European economic and political integration, a process that has resulted in the systematic erosion of democracy and democratic accountability in Europe.
The EU has its origins in the Treaty of Rome (1957), which gave birth to the European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC, also known as the “Common Market,” was a customs union. EEC member countries agreed to dismantle all tariff barriers over a 12-year transitional period, and over time a common tariff was also established for all products coming in from third countries.