No obstacles envisaged to ratification

The timetable for ratification is regarded as realistic – both the government and opposition in the Parliament of Malta already voted in favour of the previous reform (constitutional) treaty in 2006.
 
The citizens of Malta and Gozo are very well informed of the basic parameters of the reform treaty. This is the result of the previous public relations campaign run by the government and the EU Commission representative in Malta.
 
The main debate concerning the European Union in Malta towards the end of 2007 has been on the introduction of the EURO on January 1st 2008. While most sectors favour the introduction of the single currency, fears of a rise inflation have also been widespread. The main reference to the reform treaty by the media and by both main political parties, the Nationalist Party in government and the Labour Party in opposition, has been the positive development of Malta gaining a sixth seat in the European Parliament.
 
There are no obstacles envisaged to ratification of the reform treaty with a consensus existing at a political level and no debate whatsoever of the possibility of a EU referendum. With a general election due to take place in the first half of 2008, probably in the first quarter of 2008, local issues have been dominating most of the political debate in Malta.
 

Juncker first ‘President of Europe’?

Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn affirmed already in November 2007, even before signing the Lisbon Treaty: “In Luxembourg, the parliamentary ratification is to due to take place in first half of 2008” . Since all was said in the 2005 referendum campaign, no ‘nay’ votes other than those of the small Populist Party ADR (10% of the electorate) are expected. There is no intense public debate taking place at this moment on the ratification and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Luxembourg Parliament (Chambre des députés) organizes forums and discussions with political and social organisations, youth groups and students on the contents of the Lisbon Treaty , although there are very few debates compared to the many that were organized before the referendum. Detractors of the Lisbon Treaty and adepts of a no–vote in the July 2005 referendum are trying to find a broader consensus after controversial discussions. They denounce these hearings as a mere propaganda show since European leaders wish the treaty to be ratified as quickly as possible .

Timely ratification – wide public information campaign

The ratification of the Lisbon treaty in the Lithuanian Parliament is planned for the spring
 
On November 11, 2004 Lithuania was the first EU member state to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which has now been replaced by the Lisbon treaty. Such a “rush” to ratify a new treaty was justified by many factors, but it was also criticized because at the time of ratification of the Constitution for Europe Lithuanian society was not well informed about this document. Therefore based on this experience Lithuania is not rushing to ratify the Lisbon treaty. The treaty will be ratified in the Parliament and there should be no problems for the ratification of this treaty. As the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Petras Vaitiekūnas said “the treaty will have to be ratified in the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) and I suppose it will be successfully done”[1].
 

Ratification process should be completed in spring 2008

The about-to-be replaced government of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis reacted quickly to the news of the signing of the Lisbon Treaty and decided on 11 December 2007 to begin the process leading to the treaty’s ratification. On 19 February 2008 the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis voted unanimously to forward to the parliament the draft law on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and recommended that the lawmakers act speedily. Since there is neither a widespread nor a vocal opposition to the treaty in Latvia, the ratification process should be completed in spring 2008. As was already shown by Latvia’s endorsement of the Constitutional Treaty through a favourable vote of the parliament on 2 June 2005, the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty will be equally straightforward and will not depend on a referendum.
 

After ratification – More competition among member states

Italy will seek ratification of the EU's new reform treaty by a parliamentary vote rather than through a referendum, working rapidly in order for the new treaty to be ratified and enter into force in time for the European Parliament elections of June 2009. As a matter of fact, in order to start the process leading to the ratification and implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, a bill was approved by the Council of Ministers on December 21st 2007.  The majority of Italian political parties are expected to support the new agreement, which, being largely similar to the text of the draft Constitution, is not expected to face any major political opposition.

Discourse on the preparation of ratification

The upcoming referendum – large majority still undecided

Timetable for ratification
 
Ireland is the only member State which will hold a referendum for the purposes of ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. This referendum will take place in May/mid-June 2008. It is likely that the legislation preparing for the referendum will be published before Easter. Following passage of this legislation, a Referendum Commission will be established to ensure that the public receive accurate and independent information on the issues connected with the referendum.
 
Communication with citizens/wider public
 
In the context of the referendum, the widest possible information for citizens is seen as vital by government, opposition parties, NGOs and pressure groups. Extensive publicity campaigns will be launched by all these groups once the campaign begins. Before the campaign proper, information to the public is limited and often inaccurate.
 
As the Irish government is constitutionally bound to hold a referendum on European Union treaties, calls have been made by various pressure groups for the publication of a consolidated text so that voters can see clearly on what they are being asked to vote.
 

First to ratify – little public debate

Hungary has been the first country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty via parliamentary ratification on the 17th of December 2007. Actually, Hungary ratified the Constitutional Treaty equally fast: it was the second member state after Lithuania. No referendum was foreseen in either case, and unfortunately there was practically no public debate about the Lisbon Treaty.
 
The result of the parliamentary vote on the 18th of December 2007 was: 325 “yes”, 5 “no” and 14 abstentions. The adoption of the law endorsing the new Treaty was accompanied by two further moments: the adoption of a complementary document on the protection of minority rights (in connection with the new legal base) and a piece of constitutional modification in the field of justice. Both steps enjoyed practically the same level of support as the Lisbon Treaty itself[1]. All this reflects Hungary’s commitment and wide political consensus during the whole constitutional/Treaty reform process.
 

“A Treaty, at last!”

Most of political circles, academia and the media welcomed in Greece the signing of the “Lisbon Treaty” in quite a positive way; indeed, “salvaging the essentials of the Constitution” seemed to be in Greece the consensus about the final outcome of the protracted efforts at institutional change and “bringing the EU at the 21st century” that the Laeken Summit started and the Reform Treaty finally crystallised. Greece, it should be remembered, had already ratified the Constitutional Treaty (at a four-fifths majority in Parliament, on April 19, 2005, second only to Italy in ratifying among the EU–15); the Government party – Nea Dimocratia – considers itself one of the most ardent proponents of active/federal European integration, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was prompt in reminding Greek public opinion after the conclusion of the Lisbon proceedings in December 2007; the main Opposition party – PASOK – prided itself at having played an instrumental role in the final stages of the Convention process (at the Thessaloniki Summit, under the 2003 Greek Presidency).
 

President Sarkozy’s determination to push forward

A rapid parliamentary ratification
 
Following the signature of the Lisbon Treaty in October 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made it clear he wanted France to be one of the first European countries to ratify the treaty, ideally by December 2007. Such eagerness demonstrated Sarkozy’s commitment to a rapidly progressing EU.[1] President Sarkozy announced that the treaty would be ratified by the Parliament, and that the ratification process would begin immediately after the signature of the treaty on December 14th 2007, to be finalized at the latest by February 8th 2008. The first step towards the ratification, as stated by the Constitutional Council, is the adoption of a constitutional law, which modifies the French constitution. Such a law was presented on January 3rd 2008 to the Council of Ministers and adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate, convened in Congress on the 4th of February 2008. Three days later, both Chambers ratified the Lisbon Treaty with a massive majority.  
 
Struggle for a Referendum