When does no not mean no?
June 16, 2001 7:21 AM   Subscribe

When does no not mean no? When you are the Irish government and your country is the only one in the EU that requires a referendum to approve the pending EU treaty admitting new members. Last week, 54% of the Irish population who voted turned down the Nice Treaty, and yet Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern insisted "The 'no' vote should not be interpreted as a vote against enlargement..." And the protestors are at it again.
posted by jessamyn (12 comments total)
Go Irish. %5 of the Irish people can stop the expansion? COOL. ya'll wonder about Florida and our last election.
posted by clavdivs at 7:58 AM on June 16, 2001

Technically, the Irish govt. has the power to bring down the treaty.

In political terms, it's like pissing in the punch bowl.

It's intriguing. Ireland has benefitted greatly from EU development funding, and you can see it: the signs announcing road-building projects around Dublin, for instance, are festooned with EU flags. Add a few Baltic and central European countries to the EU, and Ireland becomes a relatively well-off member of the Union, and more likely than not, a net contributor to the budget.

Ahern appears to be glossing over the enlargement issues, saying that the "no" vote was due to concerns over Ireland's neutrality, in the context of the EU rapid reaction force. Which is, um, a creative reading. In fact, the Irish have done us a service, by raising questions of institutional accountability. Personally, I have no problem with an expanded EU, as long as the structures are in place to ensure that the central bodies are held to account.

What will happen? Probably the same as the Danish euro referendum: the government will keep asking the question, until it gets the answer it wants.
posted by holgate at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2001

My understanding was that the Irish neutrality issue was one of the major sticking points for the Irish public; I'm not expert on Irish politics, but isn't it possible that 5% or so of the Irish voting public would vote for a treaty that expanded the EU but Ireland opt out of a collective EU militarization?
posted by snarkout at 9:29 AM on June 16, 2001

Denmark had the same problem a few years back. People voted no on a referendum, but the government ignored it and claimed that it really didn't mean no etc. There was a time when riots was the order of the day after that.
posted by tonelesscereal at 9:45 AM on June 16, 2001

Can you guys explain to me why you would join the EU? From my admittedly biased pov, the positive effect of having a piece of a strong monetary unit is wiped out by the loss of national identity that results from EU membership (which is why I think England isn't too interested)...
posted by owillis at 9:54 AM on June 16, 2001

Hmm? Joining the EU is not the same thing as joining the single currency (e.g. England is in the EU, but has not decided to join the single currency yet). Certainly I don't think you lose much national identity by joining the EU; you gain a lot via trade - and lose a lot for stuff like the Common Agricultural Policy and so on, but generally speaking most people think the EU is a Good Thing.

The single currency on the other hand is a trickier thing. Personally, I don't think that using the Euro really erodes much of your national identity - I couldn't give a damn whose face is on my money and I'm not particularly fond of the monarchy either. I also don't think that the appearance of currency is the most important part of national identity.

The real problems with the single currency are that it's currently weak and by joining it, you lose a large amount of control, e.g. over interest rates, which are definitely very valid concerns. I think that joining the single currency is also a Good Thing, but YMMV and we'll see what happens next year when the currency really kicks in.
posted by adrianhon at 10:17 AM on June 16, 2001

Isn’t it amazing? A supposedly democratic country lets its people tell their government how they want their country to run, and the authortarians fully disregard it. In effect, they’ve told their own people that their voice is not worth using. Obviously, there is a power governments are servile to and it isn’t the people.

Protestors have been shot.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:17 AM on June 16, 2001

England is in the EU

England is in Great Britain, which in turn is a member of the EU. I wouldn't normally quibble the point, but the thread is about national identity and sovereignty. Sort of.
posted by Grangousier at 10:41 AM on June 16, 2001

Ah, but that doesn't make the statement 'England is in the EU' any less valid, right? :) Seriously though, I take your point.
posted by adrianhon at 11:10 AM on June 16, 2001

To add to what adrianhon said, (and Grangousier, to some extent) there's an element of EU expansion that actually increases local accountability: the principle of subsidiarity that "decisions are taken as close as possible to the level of the citizens". In fact, it's arguable that EU funding in the poorer regions of the UK has actually had a greater effect than national efforts, given the extent to which the British government tends to concentrate upon the needs of the area in and around London.

The main problem is that that principle is currently more than offset by the perceived ineffectiveness (and lack of mandate) of the European Parliament, the use of the Commission as a dumping-ground for obsolete politicians, and the tendency for the Council of Ministers to centralise decisions that would be better left to local bodies. Although media claims of a "massive Brussels bureacracy" are off the mark: the EU actually employs fewer public officials than Manchester City Council.

As for the euro: there's a strong political argument for a Europe-wide currency to counter the primacy of the dollar, particularly while the Yen stagnates. Unfortunately, right now the Euro isn't that currency. And to be honest, the Chancellor should be more worried about the overvalued pound.

Finally, wrt "loss of sovereignty": are the Scots any less Scottish for being part of the UK? They have a separate legal system, education system, and now a parliament and executive. And to be honest, they've always been a more European nation in character (from the arrival of Christianity, through to the Auld Alliance) than the more insular corners of little England.
posted by holgate at 11:30 AM on June 16, 2001

England is in the EU
England (I'm Irish, I hope this doesn't make me prejudiced) is GB, as regards foreign policy. Logical population-wise, but let's just say that the Welsh, for example don't have much of a say. The current state of affairs makes that common sense but there are more questions in the background, especially as regards national identity. I live in Catalonia. Catalan has more speakers than Danish, but is not recognised by the EU, same as Welsh, but they get to play in the World Cup (Soccer) if they qualify, while the Spanish aurhorities pressure teams (like Australia) not to play against Catalonia even in friendlies. If I remember right Ireland agreed to renounce translations into Irish (nil ach cupla focal agam) so that the EU budget, one third of which is spent on translations, would multiply. Ireland has got a lot out of the EU but its vote (dont ask me why they voted that way, I couldn't vote) would be great if it wass for these sort of reasons, as well as human rights issues in some candidate countries, but I think it was more a case of getting people to vote on something they had no opinion on and voted no out of fear and ignorance. On a completely different topic I dont vote in Irish elections because I don't live there and I don't think I should decide the future of those who do. Anybody else in this situation? What'ya think?
posted by Zootoon at 4:17 PM on June 16, 2001

'In political terms, it's like pissing in the punch bowl.'

my grandmother was Irish. sheda louved thaten.
posted by clavdivs at 4:01 PM on June 17, 2001

« Older The Olsen Twins.   |   The Maltesos. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments