Europe - [07/11/2008]
Ignasi Guardans, MP in the European Parliament for the Liberal-Democrat Alliance, highlighted the seriousness of the institutional crisis that the EU is facing. He declared that it was "a mistake to put a Treaty to referendum", and that unanimity paralyses major advances. Without the Lisbon Treaty, Guardans claimed, the only possible alternative would be to carry on with the Treaty of Nice which, he declared, was "incompatible with today's world". Guardans warned that continuing with the Treaty of Nice “would mean less Europe, as it would not possess the legal foundations to deal with issues not covered by Nice, such as immigration policy, or it would leave Solana in the hands of the 27 [Member States] without effective powers to implement a true foreign policy". It would also mean, in his opinion, "less democracy, as it would leave many policies outside the control of the European Parliament". Guardans added that the EU budget should be modified as it had been planned assuming that the Lisbon Treaty would be coming into force. He claimed that the solution "should come from Ireland", and he declared himself to be in favour of the thesis put forward by Nicolás Sarkozy, the EU’s current President who, speaking on 10 July at the European Parliament, announced that Europe must either choose “Lisbon or stay with Nice, and there will be no more enlargements.” Nevertheless, he said that that the use of the so-called "gangway clause", envisaged in Nice, could represent an emergency solution.
Torreblanca: “The EU suffers from an excess of consensus”
Ignacio Torreblanca stressed that, unlike other previous crises, where alternatives could be found, with this one, "We have now run out of methods to ratify the Treaty", given that the "Convention" method had failed and the Irish "No" vote has blocked the EU's alternative, traditional method of closed negotiation between States. In the opinion of the Director of the Madrid Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, the underlying problem is the "requirement for unanimity to reform the Treaties". He forecasted that in the European Union, the crisis would create even greater differentiation in terms of game rules, exceptions and the struggle to maintain the status quo, and even the possibility of a partial step backwards in the construction of Europe. In Torreblanca’s opinion of, the disaffection showed by citizens for the European project is because of "the different speeds at which economic integration has moved forward (where consensus was never imposed) compared with that of social-political construction". This has branded the EU with the label of "ultraliberal", and has brought about the democratic paradox whereby, at a time when the European Parliament possesses more power than ever before, abstention in European elections has increased. However, Torreblanca preferred to play down the consequences of the crisis because, he says, "the EU suffers from an excess of consensus", and that all political processes should be accompanied by a degree of conflict and dissent.
Díez Medrano: “The cause of this crisis lies in the lack of consensus between the political elites"
The researcher from the Barcelona Institute of International Studies linked the Irish "No" vote with the combination of "a complex Treaty with a range of advantages that citizens are unable to appreciate, and a government that does not know how to sell these advantages to them". In his opinion, the Member States "did not agree over what sort of Treaty they wanted, and this left room for some of them to block it". This explains the change of opinion of some governments, such as those of Poland and the Czech Republic, and the decision by the German president to delay signing. This lack of consensus had not occurred – Medrano pointed out – in the case of other, more profound political innovations such as "the single market, the euro and European enlargement". Medrano claimed that "there is no strong opposition to European integration among the electorate, but rather a division between the European elites, which is manifested in the opposition by the extreme right, which views the EU as a future civic republic, and by a sector of the left, which considers it a neoliberal project".