Lecturer in EU Law Comments on 'What No Means for Ireland'

Friday, 13 June 2008

An expert on EU Law has said that the Irish may well have condemned the Lisbon Treaty to the dustbin of history and that the Government must carefully consider the various options now open to it. Dr. Laurent Pech, a Lecturer in European Union Law at NUI Galway, was speaking as the referendum count for Galway West was being tallied. According to Dr. Pech, author of The European Union and its Constitution - From Rome to Lisbon, "18 Member States have ratified the Treaty. However, from a legal perspective, the rules governing the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty are clear-cut: unanimous ratification is required. No matter how practically absurd in a Union of 27 Member States, such unanimity has regularly led to ratification crises in some Member States. As the main points raised by the No side had nothing do to with the Treaty or misrepresented its actual contents, it may well be impossible to renegotiate the Treaty. Indeed, not only did the Lisbon Treaty accommodate Irish concerns and special interests, the No groups actually offered contradictory arguments. Accordingly, it will be almost impossible to take all these arguments into account." Dr. Pech suggests that there are various options for both the Irish Government and the European Union. "The EU can certainly continue to work on the basis of the Nice Treaty and seek to implement the most consensual provisions of the Lisbon Treaty on an ad hoc basis. Furthermore, if some Member States are willing to deepen European integration in certain areas, they may rely upon the provisions governing "enhanced cooperation" (Art. 43 of the Treaty on European Union). Another option is to let the ratification process follows its path. This is the worst scenario for Ireland as it may lead to its political marginalisation." He continued, "More realistically, the Irish government could seek to negotiate special arrangements and/or a new protocol which clearly states that Lisbon does not pose any threat to its neutrality, taxation regime, etc. This protocol would only restate the obvious but it might make it easier to convince Irish people to revote on the Treaty. In my view, it is also imperative that we, in Europe, agree that two new indispensable conditions should govern the ratification of any new European Treaty:
  • Member States must accept its ratification on a super-majority basis rather than unanimity; and
  • The new text must clearly articulate what would happen to the Member State(s) which will be unable to ratify it."
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