In the July issue, the executive editor, Theo Sommer, writes about the outcome of the referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon treaty. He raises issues that should stimulate debate (as well as some people’s blood pressure). His article reflects a particular attitude that is to be found among some leading figures in the EU. You will glean the nature of his article from the concluding two paragraphs:
“Euroskeptics like to brandish the argument that the Irish vote has to be heeded by all EU members, as it is the result of a democratic process. This raises not only the question whether it is truly democratic for a tiny minority to stop an overwhelming majority from moving forward. It also raises the fundamental issue of whether Europe is not better served by the judgment of its politicians than by the prejudices of its citizens.
As Der Speigel, Germany’s leading news magazine, put it: ‘Those tricksters palmed off the Single Market, the euro, the abolition of border controls and, more recently, a climate change unrivaled anywhere in the world on the peoples of Europe. All of these were the right things to do and they turned Europe into a very livable continent. Put to a referendum, most would have been delayed, if not completely stopped. Democracy does not assume unlimited confidence in the citizenry. Sometimes great matters are better off in the hands of politicians.'”
I have made clear that I am against referendums, but that is very different from believing that the views of citizens should be brushed aside in favour of the supposedly superior views of an elite. There has to be a proper discourse if political leaders are to carry the people with them. That places a particularly heavy burden in most member states on the national parliament. The constitutional arrangements of the EU require ratification of treaties by all member states. It is on that basis that member states signed up for membership. The response to the outcome of the Irish referendum should surely be a serious discussion as to the reasons for the result rather than a dismissal of it as the actions of a ‘tiny minority’. Whether one likes it or not (and clearly some do not), each member state is a veto player when it comes to treaties and treaty amendments.