Irish ‘No’ ignited political and public debate

The Irish ‘No’ over the Reform Treaty has created quite an impression in Greece, both among policy-makers and the public at large. Until the very last days before June 12th, the Irish vote was considered no more than a formality (as Greece was preparing to ratify the treaty with an overwhelming majority in Parliament). When the Irish ‘No’ was seen as a probable outcome, there had been a rather shallow public discussion about future implications and the speculation over the existence of a ‘plan B’.
The day after, there was the expected outcry of federalist circles against the Irish as well as dire predictions on their part as to institutional and political consequences of the ‘No’ vote, but voices raised in favour of somehow ‘excluding’ Ireland, were few. Finding a way out from the institutional impasse was viewed mainly as a challenge to the French Presidency.
On the other hand, in the press have been opinions interpreting the Irish ‘No’ as an inevitable consequence of the lack of communication of the European elites with wider audiences, as a side-effect of the opacity of the mechanisms constituting ‘Europe’. The mood was more or less close to that prevailing after the French and Dutch rejection of the Constitutional Treaty.
In the short-term, the Irish ‘No’ is perceived more as a nuisance and as an impediment to the day-to-day business of the EU (which, with the economic crisis and the oil shock looming charge, is considered to be besieged by important challenges). But the long-term perspectives of European integration – which are seen as more and more hazy – have receded noticeably from public interest in Greece; more lip service is paid than actual public debate taking place over ‘the future of Europe’.
A more radical view comes from the ‘left’ party “Synaspismos”: There is a need to recreate the EU; a new institutional approach ‘from the bottom’ is needed, in collaboration with the European Parliament and national parliaments and avoiding another intergovernmental conference.[1] The Lisbon Treaty as it stands is dead and emphasis should be given to enhanced cooperation and to a concentric circles structure.[2]

[1] P. Trigasis, in the newspaper ELEFTHEROTYPIA, 15 July 2008.

[2] M. Papagiannakis, in the newspaper KATHIMERINI, 22 June 2008.