Near media silence on the issue

The public reactions to the result of the Irish referendum can be described as ‘silent’. Officially, the resounding ‘No’ vote was received with much regret. Significant comments on the result came from the following politicians: Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, the European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn, and a member of parliament Timo Soini from the True Finns Party. The Prime Minister noted how the Irish have given the other member states a lot of trouble in the weeks ahead but that it was important that other member states would forge ahead with the ratification processes.[1] Also, the openly pro-EU Foreign Minister, Alexander Stubb, expressed his disappointment but stated his confidence in the European Union’s ability to find a creative solution to the current impasse. Stubb feels this should be a moment of introspection for the EU whose operation has turned into one of perennial crisis management.[2] The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, – a Finn – also contributed to the discussion by stating that it is all of the member states’ responsibility to find a solution for the situation.[3]
 
The main EU-sceptic in the country, the MP and leader of the populist party True Finns, Timo Soini, rejoiced at the verdict, arguing that everywhere where the people have been given a say on the EU, the verdict has been the same with very little evidence that the elite in Brussels are learning a lesson. For him, trying to sell a product that is 99 percent the same as the Constitutional Treaty has yet again resulted in the European Union’s utter humiliation. For Soini, a more viable European Union would consist of a single market with emphasis on environmental protection. Soini noted that the Irish result warranted him enjoying a can of Guinness in honour of the Irish voters.[4]
 
Before the referendum, various sports bodies had been in the media, described as being on the losing side should the treaty enter into force. The Finnish sports federation together with “European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation” (ENGSO) had taken a deep interest in the treaty and especially in article 165 that would, for the very first time, define a EU competence in sports. The Finnish sports federation is looking for a very restricted competence for the EU that would essentially preserve sports under national jurisdiction, so for them the ‘No’ vote meant success.[5]
 
Regarding the short- and long-term implications for the integretation process, some politicians have pointed out that the EU has been in a similar situation before. However, there has not been any deeper analysis on the topic. The main implication is the prolongation of the process and the negative image of the EU in the media. For example, the EU has been accused for not producing the consolidated version of the treaty in time and for not informing people enough on the issues related to the treaty during the Irish election campaign. The major expert on EU affairs in Finland, Professor Tapio Raunio, has stated that EU has never been in a crisis and the European Union will not fall apart even if the treaty would be declared dead.[6]
 
Future scenarios put forward by the Foreign Minister
 
Regarding the aftermath of the referendum, the most comprehensive scenario so far has been put forward by the Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who has presented five options to react to the results of the Irish referendum. The first four he considers unrealistic. The first option is to forget the Lisbon Treaty and continue on the basis of the Nice Treaty. The second option would be to organise another referendum in Ireland. That would however play down the significance of the democratic system in Ireland. The third option would be to renegotiate the treaty. That would mean a lot of work with uncertain final results. The fourth option would be the condensed co-operation of some member states in certain areas. This would lead in the end to the disintegration of the EU. Stubbs final option would be to take it easy and try to find a creative, common European solution.[7] This could mean opt-outs or additional declarations.[8]


 






[1] Helsingin Sanomat: Vanhanen: Tästä tulee nyt päänvaivaa, 14th of June 2008, p. B1.

[2] Helsingin Sanomat: Stubb: Irlannille etsitään luova ratkaisu, 14th of June 2008, p. B1.

[3] Helsingin Sanomat: Rehn: EU:lla kyky selviytyä takaiskuista, 14th of June 2008.

[4] Helsingin Sanomat: Soini korkkasi tölkin irlantilaisolutta, 14th of June 2008, p. B1.

[5] Hannu Hänninen: Irlannin kansanäänestys jännittää myös urheiluväkeä, Helsingin Sanomat, 11th of June 2008, p. B12.

[6] Tapio Raunio: EU ei ole koskaan ollut kriisissä, Suomen Kuvalehti, 19th of June 2008.

[7] Helsingin Sanomat: Viisi tietä eteenpäin, 24th of June 2008.

[8] Parliament of Finland, Seminar on the Aftermath of the European Council, 23rd of June 2008.