March, 7th 2008, published in Grayling's espresso - Issue 33
Three years after the “no” vote on the draft EU Constitutional Treaty from France and Netherlands, the recent Treaty of Lisbon, signed on 13 December 2007, could relaunch the EU dynamic.
Thus far, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Malta have already ratified the treaty. All four did so by parliamentary vote. French lawmakers voted on 7th February to adopt the EU's new 'Reform Treaty' with a large majority, but does it reflect the real opinion of French people when we consider that four years ago, the French lawmakers agreed with the former Constitutional Treaty while the French people voted “no” just few month after ?
According to the President Barroso, parliament ratification is no less democratic than a referendum. But is a referendum less democratic than a Parliamentary ratification?
Strangely, no EU member states, except Ireland, has chosen to hold a referendum to adopt the new treaty, probably because they do not want to risk burying the “Second Chance Treaty”.
In The Netherlands, the Prime Minister confirmed the government’s wish to carry out ratification through parliament, expected in the second half of 2008. The UK Prime Minister has ruled out a referendum despite strong pressure from the parliamentary opposition and media.
Denmark and Portugal have also ruled out a popular vote. Belgium could start the ratification process now, but it needs to pass through seven regional and federal assemblies and could take more than a year. In Slovakia, parliamentary ratification was postponed on 7 February for the third time and for an indeterminate period due to - yet again - threats from the opposition.
In the 18 countries which had approved the EU Constitution, no difficulties are expected. Only Ireland is going to have a referendum, expected in May. But it could be delayed until after all EU countries have approved the new treaty in a bid to encourage the Irish to vote “Yes”. Until yet, all Member States will be continuing to sit tight and hope that no spanner is thrown in the works.