Ratification process should be continued

Luxembourg parliamentarians approved the Lisbon Treaty with 47 votes in favour of the text of the treaty on May 29th. Three deputies abstained and one voted against the text. The grand duchy thus became the 15th member state to support the treaty. According to the speakers of the parties voting in favour, the treaty, “does not only reform the functioning of the European Union’s institutions and strengthen democracy, but also enables more efficient joint action. The treaty will also allow the European Union to face challenges relating to globalisation and environment. The member states will therefore be able to take efficient decisions necessary in this field in order to face the challenges of the 21st century”[1].
 
Duncan Roberts from the “Luxembourg News” believes that: “In Luxembourg the parliamentary debate was somewhat milder than can be expected in the British House of Commons when the bill to ratify the treaty comes up for vote.”[2] Ben Fayot, one of the authors of the dead Constitutional Treaty was quoted as follows: “Sadly this is merely a treaty”, acknowledging that the Lisbon Treaty does contain 90 percent of the constitution text anyway.[3]
 
Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker assisted the ratification debate in a “buoyant mood, and did not shun from interjecting with occasional commentary if one of the speakers said something he disagreed with.”[4] Hence he punished his own fellow party members’ divergent opinion on Turkey’s future membership with disdain. The Christian-Democrat MP Laurent Mosar, a well-known critic of the Juncker-Asselborn European policy,[5] said that Turkey’s membership would pose problems and questioned the validity of a Muslim country joining a union with a mainly Christian population. Mosar’s criticism encountered the strong disapproval of the Prime Minister, but collected applause among most of his fellow CSV[6] MP colleagues.[7] ‘Videant consules.’
 
Prime Minister Juncker’s ‘friendly press’, the catholic newspaper “Luxemburger Wort” commented on the Prime Minister’s politically correct words on the treaty: “a treaty which is to bring stability, allowing the European Union to focus much more on political organisation and progress than on its own problems,” with an unwillingly propheticf statement: “This could turn out to wishful thinking on the Prime Minister’s part – victory for the ‘No’ campaign in the Irish referendum on June 12th would see the treaty collapse as the Constitution did three years ago.”[8]
 
Reactions to the Irish ‘No’
 
The reactions of the Luxembourg political class to the negative referendum in Ireland is related with a feeling of annoyance. The general mood is that Luxembourg has done its homework correctly, as most other European partners have. The general opinion among the political parties represented in the parliament is that the ratification process should continue as it had started.[9] Nobody can expect from Luxembourg, as well as from any other country which had already ratified the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, to start a third ratification process.[10]
 
Danièle Fonck, the Socialist Party-friendly newspaper’s editor-in-chief, accuses the Irish government of being largely responsible for the negative vote. This government has been unable to fight successfully against the “massive campaign of (European) Union‘s detractors who used false and misleading arguments to obtain victory”.[11] Ben Fayot, a former socialist MEP and member of the Constitutional Convention, now leader of the socialist parliamentary group has no sympathy for the Irish vote. In his eyes “populism and nationalism are the fuels of the Irish ‘No’ vote”[12].
 
This very strong ‘pro Lisbon Treaty’ position is not uncontested on the left. Mil Lorang, responsible for press and information at the largest Luxembourg union, the left-wing OGB-L[13], asks his better known party comrade Ben Fayot to have a look at the reasons of the growing euroscepticism.[14] Lorang highlights a fear Luxembourg trade union representatives have expressed ever since the birth of the Schuman Plan,[15] the deterioration of labour conditions for Luxembourg’s working class. The recent judgements taken by the European Court of Justice concerning the Luxembourg government’s transposition of the ‘posted worker’ directive in Luxembourg laws are very disenchanting on this behalf. European Commission attacking the Luxembourg government in court argues that Luxembourg has transposed this directive in a way which is too “friendly towards labour interests”[16]. Finally, Luxembourg lost the case and has to rewrite the transposition directive. “Does Bolkestein finally enter by the back door?”[17] This feeling of the Christian-Democrat union LCGB[18], the socialist OGB-L, the trade unions of the neighbouring regions of France, Germany and Belgium and the European Trade Union Congress is denounced at a joint meeting in Luxembourg city. Labour representatives feel “dark times of social Europe” are dawning.[19] Danièle Fonck also regrets that Europe remains a “social dwarf”[20], but she denounces the technocratic influence that most European politicians are submitted to. A European technocracy which just forgets to take into account of the people’s daily problems cannot attract people’s sympathy.[21] Jean-Claude Juncker regrets that the European peoples are not asked the right questions such as: ”Are you in favour of a European research policy? Do you wish a closer European cooperation in climate protection?”[22]
 
Marc Glesener from the catholic “Luxemburger Wort” as most of the other editorialists must admit that there is a growing feeling of euroscepticism motivated by the ever-growing distance between the European decision-makers and the citizens. This feeling is prone to breed a strong anti-European mood.[23]
 
There are other voices to be heard, that might sound a little paradoxical. Noël Labell put it this way: “Europe is doing well after the Irish referendum […]. The Irish ‘No’ after the French and the Dutch negative vote in 2005 shows that the people still have the possibility to influence a continental debate. Those who believed that the Irish referendum was just for fun have now lost their illusions”[24]. “Thank you Ireland!” exclaims Michel Pauly, Professor of History at the Luxembourg University and editorialist of “Forum”: “The Irish were right to show the red card to the European politicians responsible for the neo-liberal Lisbon-Treaty”.[25] The tiny Luxembourg Communist Party, an eternal hardcore opponent of any European integration process, cannot hide its joy over the French, Dutch and now Irish referendum results and calls it “Déjà vu”.[26]
 
Expected short-term and long-term implications for the integration process
 
There is not only an Irish crisis but also a Czech, a Polish and a British one according to Jean-Claude Juncker. The British Prime Minister promised to do his best to have the treaty ratified but that was “before the High court got meddled in it” (Juncker).[27] Germany as well as the Czech Republic have constitutional problems to resolve. At the moment of the interview Juncker thought their President would sign the treaty as “he had promised on a meeting on June 10th”. However, in the meantime we know that he has changed his mind. In any case, Juncker is optimistic that 26 countries will ratify the treaty. “The Irish problem persists and I do not believe that we should build Europe without the Irish”. Gavin Barrett, senior lecturer at the law school of Dublin University College, quotes in the “Sunday Business Post” Jean Claude Juncker, the “widely respected Luxembourg Premier” with the following words: ”I am not in favour of a two speed Europe. I would like the European Union to move ahead with 27 member states on board in the same direction having the same ambitions – but if this (becomes) no longer possible we don’t have any choice other than a two-speed Europe”.[28] Asked about the concessions to accord to the Irish, Juncker replies that “they (the Irish) do not know which they should ask for because they already got everything they wanted in the treaty”. There can’t be any modification in the treaty because the other 26 member countries can’t repeat their own ratification procedure. (Juncker). Foreign Affairs Minister Asselborn wants to save the Lisbon Treaty with “smart help” from the Irish: “One can weaken the arguments cited by the opponents: that the neutrality of Ireland would be put in question, that the European Union would interfere with Ireland’s domestic abortion laws and that Dublin’s fiscal sovereignty would be threatened. One could also imagine an explanatory protocol. […] One [other possibility] might be that Ireland could combine the election of the European Parliament with a referendum on Lisbon.” [29]
 
Robert Goebbels, the Luxembourg Socialist MEP and vice-president of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament cannot imagine the Lisbon Treaty being ratified before the European elections in 2009.[30] Goebbels and his party associate Jean Asselborn agree that in this case the Nice Treaty would have to be reconducted. In any case, the reform treaty won’t be ratified before the European elections in June 2009.[31] “We would have two big problems: first, the number of EU-commissioners and second, the number of EU parliamentarians would be reduced”[32]. Which country would be ready to give up its desire to have commissioners of its own? These questions must be solved unanimously.
 
There is a general feeling among Luxembourg politicians that again the Union has to preoccupy itself with its internal institutional problems and there will be no time left to solve the real problems of the European people: rising oil and food prices, climate change, etc.
 




[1] Chambre des deputes: Compte rendu des séances de la Chambre des députés N°40 2008, Ratification du traité de Lisbonne, Ben Fayot, rapporteur.

[2] Luxembourg News 252: Parliament approves Treaty of Lisbon, 5.6.2008.

[3] Chambre des députés: Compte rendu des séances de la Chambre des députés N°40 2008, Ratification du traité de Lisbonne, Ben Fayot, rapporteur.

[4] Luxemburger Wort:Ja, Ja und nochmals ja, 30.5.2008.

[5] See also Jean-Marie Majerus: Report for Luxembourg, in: Institut für Europäische Politik (ed.): EU-27 Watch, No. 6, March 2008, Berlin, available under: http://www.iep-berlin.de/fileadmin/website/09_Publikationen/EU_Watch/EU-27_Watch_No_6.pdf (last access: 27.08.2008).

[6] Chrëschtlech Sozial Vollékspartei.

[7] Chambre des deputes: Comptes rendus des séances publiques N°42-43, Luxembourg 2008.

[8] Luxemburger Wort: Ja, Ja und nochmals ja, 30.5.2008.

[9]Marc Glesener: Weiter mit Lissabon, Luxemburger Wort, 19.6.2008.

[10] Ibid.

[11] 19.6.2008. Danièle Fonck: La gifle, Le Jeudi,19.6.2008.

[12] Ben Fayot: Das Nein ist keine Katastrophe, höchstens für die Iren selbst, Tageblatt, 17.6.2008.

[13] Onofhängige Gewerkschaftsbond Lëtzebuerg.

[14] Mil Lorang: Zum Nein der Iren und wie es weiter gehen soll, Tageblatt, 19.6.2008.

[15] Jean-Marie Majerus: L’opinion publique luxembourgeoise face à l’idée européenne 1945-1950, Nancy 1984.

[16] Georges Bach: Etliches Durcheinder, Transport, 20.6.2008.

[17] Luxemburger Wort: Kommt Bolkestein durch die Hintertür?, 1.7.2008.

[18] Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtleche Gewerkschafts-Bond.

[19] Luxemburger Wort: Kommt Bolkestein durch die Hintertür?, 1.7.2008.

[20] Danièle Fonck: La gifle, Le Jeudi, 19.6.2008.

[21] RTL Letzebuerg online: carte blanche. Jacques Drescher. Europapolitik: D’Leit hu scho laang verstaan, 9.7.2008, available under: www.rtl.lu (last access: 28.8.2008).

[22] Rheinischer Merkur: Jean-Claude Juncker. Man Europäern die richtigen Fragen stellen, 26.6.2008.

[23] Marc Glesener: Weiter mit Lissabon,Luxemburger Wort, 19.6.2008.

[24] Noël Labell: Populaire, Le Quotidien, 19.6.2008.

[25] Forum: Danke Irland, July 2008.

[26] Zeitung vum letzebuerger Vollek: Déjà vu, 19.6.2008.

[27] Tageblatt: entretien exclusif avec le premier ministre sur l’avenir de l’UE et du Luxembourg, 27.6.2008.

[28] Sunday Business Post: Eu can leave Ireland behind, 6.7.2008.



[29] The German Times: Let’s have solidarity, 8.7.2008.

[30] Luxemburger Wort: Verlängerung für Nice, 10.7.2008.

[31] Luxemburger Wort: Robert Goebbels: Reformvertrag kaum vor Europawahl 10.7.2008

[32] Radio Bayern: Interview with Jean Asselborn, 2. 20.6.2008.