Out of Irelandby Anthony CappelloNews Weekly
, June 30, 2001
On June 7 (the same day as Britain's general election), Ireland held a referendum, which was to determine if it was to ratify the Treaty of Nice. Unlike any other member states of the European Union, Ireland asked its citizens if they accepted the consequences stemming from the treaty.
The result of the referendum had European consequences, since a yes vote in Ireland would ensure that the Treaty would be legally binding in other EU countries.
But while German and French leaders pleaded the Irish to ratify the Treaty - German Foreign Minister Joseph Fischer commented, "We're talking about the reunification of the continent which was torn apart by Hitler and Stalin" (Current Concerns,
May-June 2001) - the Irish rejected it, with 54 per cent of them voting no.
The Treaty aims to streamline voting in the European Union and would alter administrative practices. Under the Treaty, larger European countries like Germany and France would be able to outvote smaller nations like Ireland. For example, under the Treaty conditions, Ireland would have seven votes out of 340 votes, and would no longer have its present veto powers in the European Parliament.
Some, like French journalist Gaston Duverneuil, have argued: "The Nice compromise is also a reflection of the new reality of the post-Cold-War era: a Europe where Germany is the dominant power" (Ecrits de Paris,
Despite the Irish rejection, leaders in Europe are determined to press ahead with the Treaty. Hans-Gert Poettering, chairman of the Conservative parties' coalition in the European Parliament, declared after the Irish vote that a new transparent and democratic procedure was needed for the reform of the European Union.
Since Ireland's entry into the EU, Europhiles have argued that Ireland has risen out of an agrarian society to a prosperous modern knowledge-based success story.
Yet, many in Ireland are ambivalent about such successes. Brian Flanagan, president of a civic movement in County Donegal, argues that the recent Irish boom and EU status have resulted, not from access for Irish industry into Europe, but from new American firms setting up their European headquarters in Ireland.
This is perhaps the real story behind Ireland's economic boom. In fact, today Ireland is no longer self-sufficient as it was once. The economic boom has impaired local agriculture in favour of foreign investment and capital. Therefore Ireland is no longer in control of its economic affairs.
But in rejecting the Treaty, Ireland is still politically in control, even if it is only for the time being.
In Britain, however, British PM Tony Blair - a Europhile - was voted in for his second term. Yet in his campaign, he avoided all talk of Europe. Rather, he argued that he was committed to holding a referendum on the question of whether Britain would retain the pound, versus exclusively adopting the euro. Such a referendum, if he ever holds it, will most likely come out in favour of the status quo.
While the Irish voted against ratifying the Treaty, Mr Cowen, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, told EU ministers in Luxembourg that despite the result, he hoped that the Government would ratify the present Treaty of Nice before the end of 2002 (The Irish Times,
While all this was occurring within Ireland, another group (this time Dutch) was planning to set sail and anchor just outside Ireland. Women on Waves is an organisation that provides abortion to women on a ship anchored in international waters. Just as an Irish referendum has rejected the Treaty of Nice, so a separate Irish referendum has also rejected abortion.