Ireland puts kibosh on bid to centralize EU power
The European Union, PARIS • Canada’s second-largest global trading partner, was plunged into a “political crisis” yesterday when referendum results showed the Irish had voted down a treaty intended to give the EU a stronger global voice.
Ireland, one of the smallest of the bloc’s 27 member countries, was the only one that put the accord, which requires unanimous support, to a referendum.
No country has benefited from Europe’s greater integration than Ireland, but voters were convinced by Euro-skeptics that the treaty could hurt Ireland’s independence and impose Europe’s values in areas such as abortion laws.
It was the third time in this decade that a complex attempt to streamline the unwieldy EU has been scuppered by voters in national referendums.
“This is a political crisis for Europe,” said Antonio Missiroli, an analyst with the Brussels-based European Policy Centre. “If you can’t get your act together, how can you be seen as a credible international actor.”
But Mr. Missiroli said he doesn’t think the situation will affect Canada-U.S. trade or the current attempt by Canada to strike a “Transatlantic Accord” to expand trade and investment.
Jason Langrish, spokesman for the Canada-Europe Roundtable for Business, a Torontobased lobby group, agreed.
“The constitution is an internal EU issue, and the Irish rejection of the treaty is an example of a reluctance on the part of certain EU member states to transfer ever more of their sovereignty to Brussels,” he said in an e-mail yesterday. “Further to this, the Irish in particular have shown themselves to be great proponents of trade and investment with North America.
“If anything, a deal with Canada would be welcomed in a number of European circles as offsetting the perceived drift eastwards of the European Union through its member state expansion agenda.”
The Lisbon Treaty, created after a more ambitious constitution was voted down in 2005 by French and Dutch citizens, would have streamlined the EU’s cumbersome decisionmaking process.
More important, it would create one president and one foreign policy czar, replacing more than a half-dozen top officials who currently speak for the EU overseas. That change was advanced in part to answer former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s famous question: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said that while the will of the Irish populace had to be accepted, “a period of reflection” was needed.