Ireland’s future after Lisbon

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty this summer “endangers the national interest as defined for the past half century,” according to a November paper from the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA).

When Ireland decided to apply for membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) fifty years ago, it defined the national interest in two ways: membership was “an indispensable pre-condition for economic growth” and “economic development could ensure social progress,” the paper states. 

If these two notions still hold true as a definition of the national interest, then this “economic strategy will have to be sustained,” argues the IIEA. In view of this, the institute believes a “formula will have to be devised which satisfies the democratic wishes of the Irish people, meets the legitimate concerns of the other member states and protects the key elements of the national economic strategy”. 

The paper says this formula will have to secure three fundamental objectives: 

  • Full participation in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); 
  • full involvement in the internal market, and; 
  • full membership of the euro zone. 

However, to satisfy these demands, Ireland must decide whether it “wishes to continue to play an active and constructive role within the European Union or to cease its membership and replace it with some form of external association with the bloc,” the IIEA argues. 

Whatever the way forward, the paper insists that “new measures should be taken to ensure a higher level of understanding of European affairs on the part of citizens and to facilitate interest groups and individuals in making their views known on developments in the European Union”. 

Thus, the Irish authorities’ obligation to provide citizens with accurate and accessible information on legislative proposals, especially concerning amendments to the constitution, is “greater than usual,” the IIEA argues. 

The paper adds that impediments preventing the government from explaining its decision to attempt to amend the constitution in order to ratify an EU treaty “require attention”. 

The institute concludes that this task is of great importance given the financial crisis (which came just a few months after the Irish referendum) and the new economic agenda, both of which face the “European Union as a whole and Ireland in particular”. 

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