The CEPS paper on saving the Lisbon treaty is helpful and interesting but I have a problem about the political wisdom and especially the feasibility of their Plan B.
The plan consists essentially of asking the Irish people to vote to stay in or leave an EU where the Lisbon Treaty applies, perhaps with some protocols or opt-outs to meet specific Irish concerns.
The political (and democratic?) difficulty with this is that it essentially denies the right of any member state to choose whether or not to to ratify a measure on which unanimity is required.
I accept the CEPS point that the unanimity requirement carries a giant external effect but it would still be wrong to abandon it hastily in the light of an unwelcome result in one referendum. It would also raise the possibility that any other unanimity requirement could be jettisoned in the same manner in the future. In that scenario, no member state would be safe, so to speak.
Feasibility is also a problem. As CEPS acknowledges (note 5), ratification of the treaty by only 26 member states implies renunciation of the “old” EU. This presumably means the establishment of a “new” EU, which Ireland would then vote to join or not. However, there would remain the problem of ensuring legal and constitutional continuity between the “old” and the “new” EU. The new EU would assume all the obligations of the old but could find difficulty in enforcing rights that the old EU may have had against third parties, inside or outside the EU.
These are deep waters and there may be some way of dealing with the difficulties of feasibility that I have posed. However, if there is to be a second referendum in Ireland, it should not amount to a stark choice between staying or leaving, this approach would do irreparable harm to the claims of the EU to be a democratic union of member states – even if the Irish were coerced to vote Yes! (Personally,I believe that it was in Ireland’s,and Europe’s, best interest to support the Lisbon Treaty but like many people (Irish or not) I might be tempted to react or vote against anything that seemed to be imposed or forced upon me.Author : Letters to the EurActiv editor