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Politics & press news in brief – Embassy 9 – Jun 2008

Mixed reaction over Treaty rejection

London’s diplomats are split over the impact Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty will have on Europe as a global political power.

In a recent Embassy poll, a slim majority (53%) said the EU did not risk losing global political clout if the Treaty were to be discarded, while 47% said that without a “common voice”, a divided Europe would not be able to compete on the world stage as a major political player.

One European Ambassador put it this way: “We still don’t have an answer to Henry Kissinger’s question: ‘Who do I call when I want to call Europe?’”

The Lisbon Treaty was supposed to answer the question by creating a European foreign minister, supported by an EU diplomatic service or “common external action service”.

Another EU diplomat predicted that Europe’s position would temporarily be weakened because “the outside world will notice once again, with this Irish rejection, how difficult it is to reach common ground in the EU on the very big issues” but added that the EU has always found a way to move forward.

In fact for most diplomats, it was a case of ‘The Treaty is Dead – Long Live the Treaty!’ That is, the EU would find a form of institutional reform, with or without the treaty.

“We still do not have an answer to Kissinger’s question: ‘Who do I call when I want to call Europe?’”

One Ambassador put the rejection in its historical perspective: “The EU is a unity of old and new democracies. It is the most successful political economic union of states after World War II. It reflects a very important reality with or without a treaty such as the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish vote is not a ‘doomsday scenario’, it is a reality and the EU has to live with it.”

The Ambassador goes on to say that the EU states will find ways to work more effectively and efficiently and serve their citizens better and adds that the EU’s problem is one of public perception: “No one knows for sure if the Treaty would have been put to a referendum in other countries what would have been its fate. Probably the Irish would not have been alone.”

Interestingly, almost as many non-EU diplomats voted, and their views roughly match their EU colleagues: 55% said the EU’s political weight would not be affected by the no vote. Judging from the comments, many non-EU diplomats are slightly exasperated by the EU’s drawn-out internal debates.

As one East Asian diplomat wrote: “Global issues much more important attracted more attention of the world than the Lisbon Treaty... And also European Football Cup!”

The diplomat goes on to say that the ratification issue is more an internal debate for the 27 countries rather than a worry for the rest of the world.

“The rapid changing of the world economy and its implications and repercussions on political affairs will show that the Lisbon Treaty will not be any more a need for most EU countries,” he continues, adding that rising oil and food prices are more of a concern – and predicts that most countries, including those in the EU, will return to protectionism “sooner or later”.

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The Lisbon Treaty – is it a dead end or is there a way around?

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