Irish critic declares EU reform treaty ‘dead’

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The European Union’s massive reform treaty is “dead” and will not be revived until leaders of the 27-nation bloc learn to trust their own voters, according to Declan Ganley, the businessman widely credited with engineering Ireland’s stunning rejection of the treaty in a national vote last month.

The Mr. Ganley, 39, brushed aside reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is demanding Ireland hold a second referendum on the treaty, predicting the “no” vote would only increase from the 52 percent it won in Ireland’s June 12 poll.

The reform treaty “is dead,” he flatly declared Tuesday on a Washington visit. “What part of ‘no’ don’t they understand in Brussels?”

Ireland was the only EU nation to hold a popular vote on the treaty, designed to give the EU greater political and diplomatic clout while streamlining the bloc’s creaky bureaucracy. Under EU rules, all 27 member-states must approve the treaty - in referendums or by parliamentary votes - before it can take effect.

An earlier, even more ambitious EU “constitution” failed when French and Dutch voters rejected the blueprint in separate national votes in 2005.

Mr. Ganley, an information technology entrepreneur and political novice, took on Ireland’s political establishment in spearheading the “no” campaign. Pro-treaty forces argued that Ireland’s economy had boomed because of its EU ties and there was no chance Dublin would get a better deal if the treaty were re-negotiated.

Mr. Ganley said he supported the basic ideals of the EU and had voted for past EU reform measures. He only came out against the new reform treaty after he sat down to read the nearly 500-page text.

He argued the treaty did nothing to address the bloc’s “democratic deficit” - the widespread feeling among ordinary Europeans that political elites and an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels were taking over their lives.

Among the reform treaty’s key provisions are the creation of an EU president and a foreign policy czar, neither of whom would be elected directly by voters.

“We need a strong, credible Europe that is respected in the world,” Mr. Ganley told a mostly friendly audience Tuesday at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “… But the energy of Europe cannot be drawn from an unaccountable bureaucracy based in Brussels.”

He said issues like EU interference on Irish taxation, security and social policy had helped swell the “no” coalition, but he said the fundamental objection of anti-treaty voters in Ireland was to the lack of democratic accountability in the proposed new EU bureaucracy.

The Irish vote has left EU leaders groping over what to do next. Other EU parliaments have pushed ahead with ratification votes. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, predicted Ireland will soon find itself isolated.

“There has only been one ‘no’ to the ratification of the treaty, and I do not expect any more,” he said Tuesday.

But both the Czech Republic and Poland, where popular support for the reform treaties is weak, have raised new questions about moving ahead with the ratification process in light of the Irish vote.

Mr. Sarkozy, current occupant of the six-month rotating EU presidency, travels to Dublin next week to discuss strategy with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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