Embarrassing European Union

Ireland and a few other European countries decided to ask their citizens in referendum to ratify (or not) the EU Lisbon Treaty. Other countries simply voted in parliament.

In June 2008 the majority of Irish said “no” to this treaty, while the rest of Europe voted yes. The single “no” vote meant, in theory, that the treaty was not accepted (officially all 27 EU member states had to vote “yes” for the treaty to be approved).

So… what to do when the vote is not what you want it to be? Just make people vote again, and see if you get the result you want this time! That’s exactly what the European Union proposed Ireland to do, and it seems Ireland has agreed to this “solution”.

With “solutions” like this, who needs rules at all? If the rule was that all 27 members states are required to vote yes, then the treaty was dead the minute Ireland said “no”. Maybe EU leaders were too optimistic thinking all 27 would say “yes”, but once they set that rule in the beginning, they ought to stand by it, or else resign from their positions. They have lost all credibility.

If we are going to have Ireland repeat their vote, just because some people want them to say “yes”, why don’t we have a repeat vote in Spain, for instance? Some people are not happy with Spain’s “yes” vote, and might like a repeat vote until Spain says “no”. If we don’t get what we want on the second try, we can go for a third attempt. Why not? Once we accept a second vote in one country (Ireland), why deny others the same second opportunity?

The European Union is embarrassing.

What members of parliament of all 27 EU member states should do, first thing in the morning when they go back to work tomorrow, is to establish a single electoral constituency in Europe, for all Europe-wide matters. A referendum about the Lisbon Treaty should be voted simultaneously in all 27 member states, on the same day, and there should be a single EU-wide result, not 27 individual results. The aggregated “yes” votes should be compared with the aggregated “no” votes, and there you’d have the answer of Europeans to the Lisbon Treaty.

The same system should be used for European Parliament elections. As a European citizen, I want to be able to choose from all people and parties running for a parliamentary seat, regardless of whether they are from my own country or any of the other 26 member states. I want them to campaign Europe-wide, and I want to choose among all of them, rather than being restricted to picking among politicians from my own country.

Granted, we’d probably see the number of members of parliament from a given country decrease and others increase. The government of the less-represented country may not be so happy about this, but that’s only because they oppose nature. If people are really free to choose among candidates from all over Europe, the resulting parliament would be a mere representation of the wishes of all Europeans, including those from the underrepresented country, because it means they chose to vote for people from other countries.

A few roadblocks may be on the way to implement such a system (language barriers, opposition from smaller countries, others…), but precisely the single Europe-wide electoral constituency may very well be the first necessary step to achieve integration of Europe’s resources and strengths, to get us all working together, and to erode (with time) the hard edges that cause friction in internal European relations. Unless, of course, this is not what we (Europe) want.


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