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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Update on Lisbon Treaty

Yep, the new political season in EU started, so here's a little summary on how the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is progressing. To me, things look better now. Funnily, the war between Russia and Georgia may have served a good purpose to the European Treaty. Because it gets more and more obvious that the situation must be changed. We're way too weak without a common framework of the Union.
As for the articles outline-the first 3 or 4 are probably the best summary of the situation. All the rest are just a short notes on the progress.
  1. Czech president digs his heels in against EU Treaty
  2. Ireland eyes full-time commissioner in Treaty rescue plan
  3. Aland Islands could reject Lisbon Treaty
  4. Czech, Slovak PMs to lobby for early Croatia accession
  5. Ireland opens debate on Lisbon Treaty revote
  6. Czech Constitutional Court starts Lisbon Treaty scrutiny
  7. Lack of Lisbon Treaty leaves EU weak on Georgia
  8. Compromise over Irish revote on EU treaty takes shape
  9. Study reveals Irish Lisbon Treaty anxieties

Czech president digs his heels in against EU Treaty

25 July 2008

Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus has confirmed that he will not sign his country's Lisbon Treaty ratification unless Ireland ratifies it first. The statement was made following a meeting with his Polish colleague and fellow Treaty critic Lech Kaczynski on 24 July.

The two leaders met in a chateau outside Prague amid rumours that Kaczynski may convince his host Klaus to drop his opposition to the new EU Treaty. But in fact the two presidents seem to have instead agreed upon a wait-and-see strategy, postponing their final touches to the ratification process until after Ireland changes its position.

"Without a change of the Irish result, it makes no sense to further talk about it," said Klaus, quoted by ČTK news agency.

His Polish guest sounded more flexible: "The key lies in the change of Ireland's position. There is no treaty without Ireland, but Poland will not obstruct ratification," Kazcynski is quoted as saying.

But this apparent flexibility could be misleading. Kazcynski recently labelled the Lisbon Treaty "pointless" (EurActiv 1/07/08), although a few days later he reassured French President Nicolas Sarkozy that his country would not stand in the way of ratification. Poland justifies its position by arguing that its Constitution requires that the president must only sign if there is full certainty that the Lisbon Treaty will enter into force (meaning after all the 26 other members have ratified) (EurActiv 25/06/08).

Current EU Presidency holders France, alongside other EU countries, wants all 26 member states to ratify the Treaty as soon as possible to put pressure on Ireland to re-vote. There are no other "problematic countries" after the Czech Republic and Poland, experts say.

What remains to be seen after the meeting at the chateau is whether this strategy is still sustainable. Ironically, if the French EU Presidency proves unable to solve the problem, the next EU presidency to deal with it will be the Czech Republic. source

My comment: Yup, that's really irony. The next Presidency will be Czech and the next next- Sweddish. But I certainly have more hope for the Treaty now than 3 months ago. People are really starting to realise that the Treaty should and would be ratified.

Ireland eyes full-time commissioner in Treaty rescue plan

30 July 2008

The Irish government is considering asking the Union to guarantee every member state a permanent commissioner as one option for agreeing to put the Lisbon Treaty to a second referendum late next year, Irish dailies report today (30 July).

Quoting unnamed government sources, the Irish Independent writes that the guarantee of holding on to an Irish Commissioner will be the carrot for a “yes” vote, in a fresh referendum that would be held in September or October 2009.

Currently, the Treaty foresees a reduction in the number of commissioners, from 27 to 15 by 2014, with a rotation among member states.

In addition, Dublin’s Treaty rescue plan, following the rejection of the treaty by Irish voters last month, would involve:

  • a delay in the appointment of the new Commission (due to be inaugurated in November 2009) until after the second Irish referendum;
  • written assurances on the sensitive issues of on taxation, neutrality and abortion, which is outlawed in Ireland;
  • a further reduction, next year, in the number of some countries’ MEPs, although not for Ireland. Currently, the Treaty foresees that the number of MEPs will be cut from 785 to 736, affecting several countries, including Ireland, who would have 12 MEPs instead of 13.

As they are formulated by the press, the Irish proposals on guaranteeing a permanent commissioner and further reducing the number of MEPs stand little chance of being accepted by other EU governments, because they would require amendments to the Lisbon Treaty. Yet most EU countries have already ratified the Lisbon Treaty and are opposed to reopening the long-fought text. source

My comment: Ireland politics are utterly crazy! I completely disagree with their requirements and I hope nobody takes them seriously. I mean, guaranteeing them a Commissionair?! Decreasing other countries MEPs but not their own?! HELLO! With what Ireland is so special! Why other countries MEPs are less important than Irish ones? I find this blackmailing disgusting. I understand why they want an opt-out on issues that are uncompatible with their constitution but the requirements toward the rules of EC and EP are ridiculous.

Aland Islands could reject Lisbon Treaty

19 August 2008

The parliament of Finland's autonomous Aland Islands is currently weighing up whether to vote for or against the EU's Reform Treaty, which has already been ratified by Helsinki. Rejection would put Finland in the awkward situation of not being able guarantee the implementation of the treaty throughout the whole of its territory.

The issue is being dealt with by the Aland Parliamentexternal 's law and autonomy committees, which are set to hold expert hearings in late August and early September, Parliament Vice-President Susanne Eriksson told EurActiv. The parliament will only decide on the schedule for taking a decision after this, she added.

Furthermore, the Alands' answer "will depend on what happens to the Treaty overall". The islands rejected the previous Constitutional Treaty because it was politically dead, she noted, adding that following the Irish 'no', the Alands could also consider the Lisbon Treaty to be dead already and decide to reject it for that reason.

Eriksson also pointed to "some wishes" that the Aland Islands hope to see fulfilled concerning its future relationship with the EU and which could impact on the decision. These are four-fold:

  • As the Lisbon Treaty would guarantee more involvement by national parliaments in the EU legislative process by allocating two votes to each parliament in evaluating different Commission initiatives, the Alands would like to have one of Finland's votes.
  • The islands' government would like to be able to defend itself in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) when there is a case against it. Currently, Finland is brought to the ECJ to speak for the Alands (the European Commission recently took Finland to the ECJ because the Alands had not forbidden the sale of snuss, a form of chewing tobacco, and imposed a €2 million fine on the islands. However, health in the Alands is not controlled by Finnish laws, but the islands' own).
  • The Alands would like the right to name one of Finland's 14 members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
  • The islands also want clearer rules on how their government can influence Finland's position in the Council of Ministers.

The Aland Parliament's decision will not affect Finnish ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, as the text was approved by the Finnish Parliament on 11 June 2008. source

My comment: Ok, that's more or less funny.

Czech, Slovak PMs to lobby for early Croatia accession

22 August 2008

The Czech and Slovak prime ministers have joined forces in opposing French President Nicolas Sarkozy's view that Croatia's EU accession should be delayed following the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by Ireland.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico met in the Czech capital yesterday (21 August) on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the crackdown on the Prague Spring uprising by 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops (EurActiv 1/08/08). The two leaders said it is in both countries' interest for Croatia to join the EU as soon as possible. This position contradicts the view of French President and current EU Presidency holder Nicolas Sarkozy, who insists there will be no new enlargement until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified (EurActiv 9/07/08).

Fico said formal obstacles which result from the Irish 'no' to the Lisbon Treaty must not be allowed to stand in the way of Croatia's EU accession, while Topolanek announced that Croatian entry would be one of the priorities of the Czech EU Presidency in the first half of next year. Fico said both he and Topolanek would lobby in favour of this with other EU countries.

Earlier in June, Topolanek said Croatia could be admitted to the EU on the basis of the Treaty of Nice, which entered into force in February 2003. But this would require a special agreement between the 27 EU members as the Nice Treaty only provides an institutional framework for 27 members. source

My comment: Ok, that's even more fun. I also think that Croatia should be in the EU and also that it was a mistake of Sarkozy, to blackmail countries, especially in a Union of Solidarity like our own EU. But then, Poland and Czehia are also trying to play dirty and I don't approve this too.

Ireland opens debate on Lisbon Treaty revote

25 August 2008

A second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would "ultimately" be required in Ireland to prevent its isolation now that all other 26 member states appear likely to ratify it, the country's Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche said at the weekend.

The views expressed by the Irish Minister appear to be significant, particularly as politicians in Ireland and in the EU have been careful not to be seen to be imposing a revote as a solution to the crisis that emerged after Irish voters rejected the new EU treaty in the 12 June referendum. Indeed, politicians fear such a move could be interpreted as a sign that Dublin and Brussels do not care about their citizens' opinions.

Yet European Affairs Minister Dick Roche told the Irish Independent newspaper "my personal view is that a referendum is the appropriate response to the position we are in."

Talk about a new referendum is nevertheless probably premature, with a July poll commissioned by the eurosceptic 'no' camp revealing that almost three quarters of Irish voters are opposed to a second referendum on the EU's new reform treaty (EurActiv 28/07/08). In 2001, Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty before voting in its favour 16 months later.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said last month that Ireland would give the EU clarity on the way forward in time for the December summit of EU heads of state and government. source

My comment: No comment, really. I don't see a good PR campaign in Ireland to promote the EU and the new Treaty and I don't know why people simply expect Irish people to change their mind out of the blue.

Czech Constitutional Court starts Lisbon Treaty scrutiny

1 September 2008

The Czech Constitutional Court is now prepared to start examining the Lisbon Treaty to decide whether it is consistent with the country's constitution, the body's chairman said in Prague on 31 August.

Court chairman Pavel Rychetsky said he expects the court to concentrate on the seven passages against which a complaint was filed, ČTK reported. He added that he was not able to tell how long the judges would be discussing the case.

The Senate, which is dominated by senior eurosceptics from the ruling Civic Democrats (ODS), asked the court to check the treaty's compatibility with the Czech Constitution in April.

The ratification process was complicated by the fact that Ireland said 'no' to the treaty in a referendum in June.

But even if the Czech Constitutional Court does declare the new treaty constitutional, parliamentary ratification is far from certain. While the lower chamber is expected to approve the text, the outcome in the Senate cannot be predicted due to a strong eurosceptic faction within the ruling ODS of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, which has a majority there.

Also, Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus recently confirmed that he will not sign his country's Lisbon Treaty ratification unless Ireland ratifies it first (EurActiv 25/07/08). source

My comment: I'm pretty sure that there won't be a contradiction and that all will be up to the President. And as we already understood, he prefers to wait and see what will happen to Ireland. And probably what he can gain from the situation.

Lack of Lisbon Treaty leaves EU weak on Georgia

2 September 2008

Although the fate of the EU's Reform Treaty was not officially discussed at the bloc's extraordinary summit on Georgia on 1 September, it proved to be a highly topical issue, with various top-level European politicians highlighting the importance of its entry into force if the EU is to become a more powerful global player.

Speaking at the EU Council, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering said events in Georgia dramatically underlined the necessity of the Lisbon Treaty. Notably, he pointed out that the treaty would have laid down the principle of solidarity between member states in the energy sphere.

"For this reason as well, it is particularly important that the Lisbon Treaty should be ratified as quickly as possible," Pöttering said.

During a parliamentary debate on Georgia, which took place alongside the summit, EPP-ED group chairman Joseph Daul (France) added that the Lisbon Treaty would also have helped create a European defence policy – an area where, in his words, the current Georgia crisis exposed the EU's weakness.

The Treaty would also have created a more powerful EU high representative for foreign affairs, a full-time president of the European Council and an EU external action service.

Political analysts have underlined that the EU was lucky to have a country as big as France at its helm during the Georgia crisis as this tempered the lack of real EU leadership.

"The EU was lucky France held the EU Presidency, because Russia agreed to engage with Mr. Sarkozy on the ceasefire. But they may not have engaged with the EU if a smaller country such as the Czech Republic were EU president, especially with its difficult bilateral relationship with Moscow as a result of its decision to host US missile defence," said Antonio Missiroli, the director of the European Policy Centre, quoted in The Irish Times.

Even the Polish President, who in the recent past called the Lisbon Treaty "pointless" and said he would not sign it (EurActiv 01/07/08), spoke a very different language after the summit.

Asked by EurActiv if he was now more in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, Kaczynski conceded that indeed, several EU leaders had mentioned informally that the Lisbon Treaty would have given the EU better instruments to deal with challenges such as the current Georgia crisis. He then added that Ireland should hold a second referendum. source

My comment: Yup, yup! No more comment :)

Compromise over Irish revote on EU treaty takes shape

9 September 2008

A compromise package aimed at convincing the Irish to return to the ballot box and agree to the Lisbon Treaty seems to be taking shape as Dublin considers opt-outs on defence. Meanwhile, EU countries appear to be leaning towards retaining the current system of one commissioner per country in response to Ireland's concerns that it may lose its representative.

The Irish government is exploring the possibility of opting out from European security and defence policy in an attempt to make the Lisbon Treaty more palatable to the public, the country's foreign affairs minister, Micheál Martin, told the press at an informal ministerial meeting in Avignon on 7 September.

Martin said he was personally against such a move, as a decision to completely pull out of European security policy would mean that Ireland would no longer participate in EU peacekeeping missions overseas. According to him, the Irish army has benefited greatly from such experiences, receiving much international praise.

But a diplomatic source said that if a defence opt-out is the price to pay for an Irish 'yes' to the new Lisbon Treaty, then "so be it". The French EU Presidency has already indicated its willingness to consider possible guarantees the Irish might like to have added to the treaty, notably as regards their neutrality, religious values, abortion, taxation or aid schemes for certain professions (EurActiv 25/06/08).

According to the source, keeping the present system of one commissioner per country may not only serve to give the Irish a sense of having accomplished an important goal with their negative vote. Such a measure could also be easily adopted (by means of a brief intergovernmental conference) because other countries are starting to have second thoughts about reducing the number of commissioners, the source added. source

Study reveals Irish Lisbon Treaty anxieties

10 September 2008

The publication of government-commissioned research into the reasons behind the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the majority of Irish citizens marks the opening of a national consultation process on Ireland's future relationship with the EU, the government in Dublin announced today (10 September).

The initial results of the research - conducted by polling firm Millward Brown IMS - are already known, although they will not be published until later today. They confirm information already revealed by EurActiv this week (EurActiv 09/09/08) that a compromise package aimed at convincing the Irish to return to the ballot box would likely have to include an opt-out on defence and keep the present system of one commissioner per country.

Indeed, according to The Irish Times, the study reveals that fears, particularly among women, that young Irish men could be conscripted into an EU army featured high on the list of justifications for the negative vote. The loss of an automatic right to have an EU commissioner representing Ireland also featured prominently. source

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