Plan B

BERLIN/DUBLIN | | irland

BERLIN/DUBLIN (Own report) - Systematically using threats, German government policy makers for European affairs are trying to intimidate Ireland into repeating the Lisbon Treaty referendum. According to interviews and analyses subsequent to last Friday's "No" vote, it is being suggested that a few insignificant concessions be added to the treaty and again voted upon - possibly linked to the question of Ireland's remaining in the EU. To enable the Irish government to impose a second referendum, plans are being forged to bring the Lisbon Treaty into effect - even without Ireland which could, to a large extent, isolate Ireland. The creation of a German-French "core Europe" remains an alternative option. Since, according to Berlin, the implementation of these plans would mean the end of all democratic legitimacy of the European Union, they should as a first step merely serve as a threat, while simultaneously, if the Irish refuse to yield to these intimidation efforts, being an introduction of a concrete policy option. The prerequisite is that all of the other EU member states ratify the treaty, as demanded by the German government.

Continue Ratifying

Within a few hours of last Friday's Irish "No" vote, German European affairs policy makers were sketching the course of the German line of action in interviews and analyses. According to these pronouncements, under no conditions, is Berlin prepared to accept the results of this referendum. According to a declaration of the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Treaty of Nice, which had been in force, would have sufficed for "the legislative machinery in Brussels to continue to function."[1] Ambitious projects such as the establishment of an EU Foreign Minister with an incorporated foreign policy service or the development of an EU military policy could be introduced step by step. But the German government is not prepared to accept more loss of time and insists upon an unaltered Lisbon Treaty. In a joint statement, at the beginning of the week, the German chancellor and the French president declared "we are expecting the other member states" of the EU "to continue their national ratification processes."[2] This declaration, in the tone of a command, was published already last Friday. The German foreign minister simultaneously confirmed that he is "determined" to see to it that the Lisbon Treaty "comes into force."[3]

Vanished Legitimization

At the same time the question remains, how are they going to deal with the failed ratification in Ireland. Through complicated juristic constructions, it would be possible to ignore Dublin's veto, at least for a while.[4] This idea of Frank-Walter Steinmeier is supposed to be discussed at today's meeting of the EU foreign ministers. But experts exclude a long-term implementation of the Lisbon Treaty without Ireland's endorsement. This option might be "interesting in political terms," writes the Bertelsmann Foundation, "in the light of European and international law, this course of action is simply impossible."[5] Besides, this "would reinforce the image of the EU as an entity which does what it wants to do with or without reference to the electorate" warns the foundation. "The EU's entire democratic legitimacy would simply vanish into thin air."

Political Hostage Takers

Yet the expulsion scenario "in the weeks to come will be uttered on a number of occasions," the Bertelsmann Foundation supposes - as "political threats."[6] At the same time, German policy makers are interpreting the Irish "No," in such a way that would justify a repeat of the referendum. The CDU member of the European parliament, Elmar Brok alleged that "the Irish" are "not even against the elaboration" of the EU by the Lisbon Treaty.[7] "They were voting against more abortions and higher taxes, even if neither can be found in the treaty." The "No camp" was operating "with lies and blackmail" says Brok. "You can't let a whole continent be blocked by this sort of campaigns."[8] The German press even called treaty opponents "political hostage takers."[9] Brok openly makes a case for holding "a new referendum in Ireland by the beginning of 2009, at the latest."[10]

Holy Cows

A repetition of the referendum is also being contemplated by German political advisors. But the Lisbon Treaty could be "spruced up by adding a special declaration for Ireland"[11], according to the Bertelsmann-Foundation. "This might include a statement repeating the EU's attitude to Irelands three 'holy cows': military neutrality, abortion and corporate taxation." Such a "declaration" would permit the Dublin government to hold another referendum - like the vote on the Treaty of Nice, which had also been ratified with amendments only after a second referendum in 2002. Pertaining to content, a "declaration" would be completely worthless. This is demonstrated by the example of neutrality: though formally guaranteed, concretely it has long since been abandoned under pressure from Brussels.[12] Faced with Irish stubbornness, yet another referendum version is being proposed for discussion by the Munich based Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP): with this referendum, the Irish could be asked "the fundamental question about their EU membership", directly threatening them with exclusion from the EU, if they continue their resistance.[13]

Core Europe

German demands to integrate a few EU member states closer, while excluding others is another of the threats. Gunther Krichbaum (CDU), chairman of the German Bundestag's Committee on the Affairs of the European Union, is demanding that "more thought be given to a core Europe (...), in which the states seeking closer integration will cooperate more intensively".[14] But this is still a second choice for Berlin, because Berlin would have less power in a "core Europe" than in a Europe of the Lisbon Treaty. But, Germany since the mid 1990s, has regularly succeeded in imposing its plans for the expansion and structuring of the EU by threatening a "core Europe". This was most recently the case in the spring of 2007, when Germany forced the other member states to accept the relevant portions of its preliminary work for the Lisbon Treaty ( reported [15]).


But there are also cautioning voices in the think tanks of German foreign policy. CAP, for example, points out that the Irish "No" was expressed against an essentially common front of the political elite: only one political party in parliament had campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty. All of the other pro-Lisbon parties were supported by "opinion makers in business, the media and society", including the influential farmer's association and the Catholic Church.[16] As post referendum analyses show, the "Yes" had a clear majority in the Dublin neighborhoods favored by the political elite, whereas the "No" was clearly expressed in the neighborhoods of the urban underprivileged and in rural areas. The clear chasm between the well-to-do, EU oriented upper class and the rest of the population is particularly surprising, given the fact that Irish farmers financially benefit from the EU. With the growing divergence of interests between the EU elites and the middle and lower classes, Brussels' financial support obviously no longer suffices as the materially binding element.


CAP confirms "the gap between the politicians in charge (...) and the skepticism and partially open rejection by the population".[17] "Similar tendencies could already be remarked in 2005 in the referenda in France and the Netherlands on the EU constitution", recalls the think tank. "Nearly two thirds of the EU citizens feel their voices don't count in the EU." And this disengagement doesn't take place "in the countries known for their skepticism towards Europe like Great Britain and the Czech Republic (...), but in countries that are traditionally friendly toward Europe." CAP is warning not to ignore the growing gap in the European population: "This is a fundamental challenge for the EU."

[1] Dominik Hierlemann: Was nun, Europa? Vier Optionen nach dem irischen "Nein"; Bertelsmann-Stiftung spotlight europe - spezial Nr. 2008/06, Juni 2008
[2] Gemeinsame Presseerklärung von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und dem französischen Staatspräsidenten Nicolas Sarkozy zum Ausgang des irischen Referendums über den Vertrag von Lissabon vom 12. Juni 2008
[3] Bundesminister Steinmeier bedauert Abstimmungsergebnis in Irland; Pressemitteilung des Auswärtigen Amts 13.06.2008
[4] Steinmeier schlägt EU-Pause für Irland vor; Financial Times Deutschland 14.06.2008
[5], [6] Dominik Hierlemann: Was nun, Europa? Vier Optionen nach dem irischen "Nein"; Bertelsmann-Stiftung spotlight europe - spezial Nr. 2008/06, Juni 2008
[7] "Nerven bewahren!"; Zeit online 13.06.2008
[8] "Ein Klein-Europa können wir uns nicht leisten"; Frankfurter Rundschau 14.06.2008
[9] Stunde der Geiselnehmer; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.06.2008
[10] "Ein Klein-Europa können wir uns nicht leisten"; Frankfurter Rundschau 14.06.2008
[11] Dominik Hierlemann: Was nun, Europa? Vier Optionen nach dem irischen "Nein"; Bertelsmann-Stiftung spotlight europe - spezial Nr. 2008/06, Juni 2008
[12] see also The End of Neutrality, Das Ende der Neutralität (II) and Irish Neutrality
[13] Sarah Seeger: Und jetzt? Ursachen und Konsequenzen des irischen Neins zum Vertrag von Lissabon; 14.06.2008
[14] "Kerneuropa wird ein Thema"; Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger 13.06.2008
[15] see also Success Story, Unter der Führung des Reiches, Nicht hinnehmbar, Kriegsverlierer and A Question of Peace or War in Europe
[16], [17] Sarah Seeger: Und jetzt? Ursachen und Konsequenzen des irischen Neins zum Vertrag von Lissabon; 14.06.2008