European Style: Nobody Loves It
Imagine a man on trial for his life. The jury brings in a verdict of not guilty, so the judge immediately invites counsel for the prosecution to complete his closing speech, and then the accused is found guilty and sentenced to death. The Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty on 12 June by a large majority. The treaty cannot come into force unless it is adopted by all 27 member states of the European Union, but most European leaders immediately announced that the ratification process would continue, yet promised to "respect the will" of the Irish people (see "Ireland votes no").
The Irish rejected a "simplified" treaty so big the prime minister, Brian Cowen, confessed he had not managed to read it cover to cover. A member of the European parliament said the Irish reminded him of a "people's democracy". Another remarked: "It's no accident that dictators love a referendum" (1) and the president of the European parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, concluded: "The Irish no vote cannot be the last word" (2). So there will be a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and possibly a third. Voting in
Blame the Irish! Ungrateful, selfish, working-class militants, incapable of the generosity and unselfishness shown by their rulers. Except when they vote them in and give them a mandate to carry out "bold reforms". No need for a second ballot then. The Irish are thoroughly European in that respect.
Something has gone wrong. The European style has been exported and sold on the strength of claims to peace, prosperity, justice and equality. It has produced charming posters with blue skies, loving mothers and happy babies; it has an army of journalists and artists campaigning for it;
It talks about peace but prepares to join the
(1) Jean-Louis Bourlanges on "
(2) Le Monde, 17 June 2008.
(3) José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, explained that "it would be deemed incompatible with international trade regulations to bar these imports".
(4) The Economist,
Translated by Barbara Wilson