Monthly Archives: October 2009

Read today’s analysis in the FT of the consequences of Ireland’s vote on the Lisbon treaty. Follow this link:

EU embarks on voyage of discovery after Lisbon Read more

Every now and then, I’m asked in Brussels whether the opposition British Conservative party’s hostility to the European Union is related to the fact that so many of its top people – including David Cameron, likely to be the UK’s next prime minister – went to Eton.  The theory is that they’re so snooty and cut off from the lives of ordinary Britons that they’ve lost all sense of what’s in the national interest.

Well, it’s always tempting to have a rant about privilege.  But in this case, the verdict on Eton is “not proven”. Read more

With Czech President Vaclav Klaus the chief remaining obstacle to final ratification of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, there has been a fair amount of loose talk about how the Czech Republic could – or should – be punished if Klaus refuses to sign it.  On the one hand, supporters of the treaty say it is intolerable that the EU’s eight-year effort at redesigning its institutions should be sabotaged at the finishing post.  If Klaus carries on his delaying tactics much longer, they warn, the Czechs should be denied a seat in the next European Commission.

On the other hand, opponents of the Lisbon treaty are painting the same scenario for quite different reasons.  Just you watch, they say.  The EU will reveal itself as an intolerant, anti-democratic machine, whipping the Czechs merely because they have the temerity to resist the imposition of a treaty they fear undermines their sovereignty. Read more

Iceland looks to the future (Andrew Ward, FT video package)

EU draws up plans to establish itself as a ‘world power’ (Bruno Waterfield, Daily Telegraph) Read more

Everyone interested in modern Russia should read a report out this week on the nation’s deepening demographic crisis.  It’s published by the United Nations Development Programme, but it’s written by a team of Russian academic experts, so no one can say it’s tainted with bias.

The report describes the stark reality of a country whose population is falling fast, to a considerable extent because of rampant alcohol abuse among men, who on average are dying before they make it to 60 years old.  “Short life expectancy is the main feature of this crisis, though by no means its only feature.  The birth rate is too low, the population is shrinking and ageing, and Russia is on the threshold of rapid loss of able-bodied population, which will be accompanied by a growing demographic burden per able-bodied individual.  The number of potential mothers is starting to decline and the country needs to host large flows of immigrants,” the report says. Read more

This is a short note to let everyone know that Tuesday’s Financial Times will carry an article looking at who will be the lucky person appointed as the European Union’s first full-time president (assuming, as seems more and more likely, that the EU’s Lisbon treaty comes into effect next year).

So, readers – who do you think should be the first president?

A couple of months ago, some European Union policymakers talked despairingly of how 2009 risked turning out to be “a wasted year”.  Now the EU is on a roll.  The impasse over José Manuel Barroso’s reappointment as European Commission president was removed last month when the European parliament stopped playing games and renewed his term of office.

And all of a sudden, it looks as if “a decade of deadening debate over the European Union’s institutional shape” – as British foreign secretary David Miliband puts it in today’s FT – will soon come to an end, after Ireland’s referendum on the Lisbon treaty produced a massive majority in favour.  It may not be long before the EU has its first full-time president, a new head of foreign policy and a new Commission with a five-year mandate serving under Barroso. Read more

EU pushes Czechs for Lisbon approval (Tony Barber, FT)

Cameron faces row over EU treaty vote (George Parker and Tony Barber, FT) Read more

Victories in referendums rarely come as big as this.  With full results in from more than half Ireland’s constituencies, the pro-Lisbon treaty camp is ahead by 66.8 to 33.2 per cent.  What’s more, the turnout is high – almost 59 per cent, compared with 53 per cent when Irish voters rejected the European Union’s Lisbon treaty in June 2008.

No wonder Irish premier Brian Cowen looks like the cat that’s been served the cream (when he and his party are annihilated in the next Irish parliamentary election, he can always say he did the noble thing on Lisbon before perishing).  And no wonder Irish big business is pleased, too.  They were very visible on the Yes side during this campaign and they needed a convincing result to justify the money and effort. Read more

The early results look pretty conclusive: Irish voters have approved the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, possibly by a very large margin.  A poll by the opposition Fine Gael party suggests the pro-Lisbon forces may have taken between 60 and 65 per cent of the vote.

That would be a comprehensive turnaround from the 53.4 to 46.6 per cent victory for the No camp in the June 2008 referendum in Ireland.  Voters in Dublin seem to have given overwhelming backing to the treaty, according to RTE, the Irish state broadcaster. Read more

Voting in Ireland’s referendum on the Lisbon treaty got off to a pretty slow start at one polling station I went to in central Dublin this morning.  By 8am, an hour after the polls opened, fewer than a dozen people had arrived to cast ballots.  Nevertheless, it struck me as significant that two voters told me that they had switched to voting Yes from No in Ireland’s June 2008 referendum on the treaty.  By contrast, no one said they had switched to No from Yes.

In the 2008 referendum, the Lisbon treaty was defeated by a margin of 53.4 to 46.6 per cent on a turn-out of 53.1 per cent.  That was a decisive result.  But because Ireland is a small place, with an electorate of just over 3m, the absolute difference between the Yes and No votes was not that great.  Some 862,415 people voted against Lisbon and 752,451 in favour. Read more

According to Brian Cowen, Ireland’s premier, a No result in Friday’s referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon treaty would raise the prospect of a “two-speed Europe”, with some countries forging ahead with closer political and economic integration and others staying outside.  But isn’t a two-speed Europe the dog that is hauled out of its kennel every time there’s a EU institutional crisis but which, in the end, never barks?

After Irish voters rejected the Lisbon treaty in June 2008, a number of politicians were quick to assert that a two-speed Europe was the only way to keep the European “project” on the road.  Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister, who has lived through more EU crises than most of us have had quetsch plum tarts, mused in public that perhaps it was time for a “Club of the Few” to go ahead on their own. Read more