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.

Proceed with ratification, continue enlargement

The Estonian government regards the outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty as regrettable. The Irish ‘No’ is seen as prolonging the period of confusion and uncertainty, and having potentially negative implications for the European Union’s competitiveness, further enlargement as well as the EU’s credibility in the international arena. The Estonian government has been a strong proponent of both the Constitutional Treaty and the Reform Treaty throughout the drawn-out process of treaty reform. The government regards finding a solution to the constitutional impasse as the most important task for the French Presidency, while recognizing that the Irish government has a special responsibility for proposing possible solutions. Government officials have, as a rule, avoided taking clear positions on what constitutes the best way out, recognizing that there are no simple solutions. In any case, Estonia supports the continuation of the ratification process by the member states that have not yet ratified the treaty.[1] The government also urges the EU to continue the enlargement process “with the same pace as previously outlined.”[2]
 
“Riigikogu”, the Estonian parliament, ratified the Lisbon Treaty on June 11th 2008 with 91 votes in favour and one against (previously, it had ratified the Constitutional Treaty on May 9th 2006).

The Irish ‘No’: impact on the Danish opt-outs


The Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty was met with disappointment by the Danish government and pro-EU parties, but with joy from the parties and movements against the treaty being adopted in Denmark without a referendum. Jens-Peter Bonde (leader of the EU sceptical June Movement and former MEP) spent the 13th of June 2008 in Ireland celebrating the result with the Irish ‘No’ voters. The right-wing Danish Peoples Party, the left-wing Unity list and the two movements against the treaty, the June Movement and the Peoples’ Movement against the EU, saw the Irish rejection of the treaty as the final end of the treaty.
 
There is generally agreement in the Danish parliament (“Folketing”) that reform of the Lisbon Treaty is not an option as the treaty is already a political balance between conflicting interests. Therefore, changing the treaty text is regarded as opening a Pandora’s box and (re)starting a never-ending process. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has recommended that Ireland negotiates opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty but should be cautious in ‘cherry picking’ from the document. The Danish model of 1992 could be a model for Ireland referring to the four Danish opt-outs from 1992 that enabled Denmark to endorse the Maastricht Treaty after an initial referendum thumbs-down.

Mixed reactions to the Irish ‘No’

The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty was received with mixed reactions in the Czech Republic. Critics of the treaty, such as President Václav Klaus and a faction of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), were outspokenly satisfied with the outcome and argued that, since the treaty has been rejected, the ratification process in the Czech Republic should also be stopped.[1] Especially the Green Party, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, on the other hand, called for a rapid continuation of the ratification process in the Czech Republic. The destiny of the treaty in the Czech Republic is yet unsure and has been put at standstill until the constitutional court expresses its opinion, which is expected in the fall.
 
The governing coalition, consisting of Civic Democrats, Greens and Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), has stated that the ratification process shall continue, but that it is necessary to wait for the opinion of the Czech constitutional court. Thus, the court is in a position where it could complicate the ratification of the treaty. The Irish ‘No’ seems in general to have also strengthened the position of the critics in the Czech Republic, who now have a new powerful argument.

Parliament ratified treaty – major governing party opposed

The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish people was widely, if rather cautiously, perceived by the Cypriots as a serious setback in the efforts for a stronger, more democratic European Union. Upon hearing of the Irish ‘No’ vote, the Cypriot government suggested that it favoured a collective handling of the matter by the EU-27 in order to achieve an acceptable outcome.

Political leaders and analysts express hopes that the EU will carry on with the ratification process

Most of the debates and reports before and after the referendum were focused on the implications of adoption or refusal of the treaty on enlargement, more precisely on the position of Croatia. Vesna Roller, journalist, elaborated legal possibilities after the positive or negative outcome of the referendum.[1] She stated that even the Europeans did not know what the consequences of the eventual refusal of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland were. Does it mean that the treaty is ‘dead’ (like it was the case with the “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe” after the Dutch and French ‘No’ three years ago), or will the ratification continue in other nine countries? The first solution meant that it would be necessary to continue work on improving the document, which was hard to expect. It was more likely that the problem would be treated as a specifically Irish one, leaving the country to find the solution for negative outcome.
 
Neven Mimica, chairman of the European Integration Committee of the Croatian parliament commented that the Irish citizens refused the idea of further federalisation of Europe but not the Lisbon Treaty itself. The gap between political elites and the wider population is increasing, which means that the Treaty was not well communicated to citizens. It is instructive for Croatia because it shows how important the referendum is.

Bulgaria regards the Irish ‘No’ as a threat to national interests

Participation in and positive contribution to the revisions of the founding EU treaties has consistently headed Bulgaria’s priorities since the country’s accession to the EU. Such revisions are expected to lead to building a more efficient and democratic European Union.
 
During the Lisbon Treaty negotiations Bulgaria was a positive partner, open for dialogue and willing to contribute towards reaching a consensus. The only instance of Bulgaria adopting a firm position and exerting pressure concerned an issue of a cultural nature, and it was quickly resolved. This issue was the right to use the denomination “Evro” (instead of “Euro”), when writing the common European currency in the Cyrillic alphabet. On virtually all other issues, Bulgarian political parties as well as national media have been openly supportive of the reforms envisaged in the treaty and, although much could be desired in terms of a more lively public debate and more detailed information for the general public, the overall attitude in Bulgaria towards the new treaty was favourable.

Diverse reactions – ratification process should be continued

Generally speaking, most of the Belgian political, social and economic actors were deeply disappointed with the negative result of the referendum. However some academic personalities and actors from the civil society argued it was a good thing for European democracy, as the result is likely to create a debate involving the citizens.
 
Political leaders in Belgium were saddened with the negative result. Some claimed, such as Ivo Belet (Belgian MEP – Christian Democrat) that the Irish people were not well enough informed and a bit frustrated, and that attention should be given to the reasons of the rejection.[1] The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Karel De Gucht) and the Secretary of State for European Affairs (Olivier Chastel) noted that the situation should not be (over-) dramatized and that we should not heap criticism on Ireland.[2] Yves Leterme, the Belgian Prime Minister, insisted on the complexity and the heterogeneity of the reasons explaining the ‘No’ vote. According to him, ‘Europe’ has become evident over time and the citizens became accustomed to the EU. European leaders should insist more on the benefits, particularly in Ireland that has benefited heavily from the European integration and structural funds.

Europe of ‘different speeds’ no solution

The reactions in Austria ranged from expressions of regret to ones of approval, depending on the political party or the ideological background. The ruling SPÖ-ÖVP[1] coalition initially accepted and respected the Irish vote, and expressed the need for a better communication between ‘Brussels’ and the European population. Also, the Greens expressed their regret for the outcome, but stated that the governments were the ones to blame due to the lack of democratic principles and the disregard of social issues. The two right wing parties – the BZÖ[2] and FPÖ – were both content with the vote and the BZÖ called the ongoing ratification process in other EU member states a farce since they regarded the Lisbon Treaty to be dead.
 
Other voices like the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) suggested that the discussion should not be left to the EU opponents and that more communication was needed. The Union also insisted on the integration of more social issues. A more radical voice – Richard Wagner, writer and journalist in Berlin – said, in a maybe not entirely serious comment, that Ireland should be given the status of Turkey.

Europe of ‘different speeds’ no solution

The reactions in Austria ranged from expressions of regret to ones of approval, depending on the political party or the ideological background. The ruling SPÖ-ÖVP[1] coalition initially accepted and respected the Irish vote, and expressed the need for a better communication between ‘Brussels’ and the European population. Also, the Greens expressed their regret for the outcome, but stated that the governments were the ones to blame due to the lack of democratic principles and the disregard of social issues. The two right wing parties – the BZÖ[2] and FPÖ – were both content with the vote and the BZÖ called the ongoing ratification process in other EU member states a farce since they regarded the Lisbon Treaty to be dead.
 
Other voices like the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) suggested that the discussion should not be left to the EU opponents and that more communication was needed. The Union also insisted on the integration of more social issues. A more radical voice – Richard Wagner, writer and journalist in Berlin – said, in a maybe not entirely serious comment, that Ireland should be given the status of Turkey.