Lisbon Treaty is clearly a step forward for a Europe
of the citizens. The subsidiarity principle will give national and regional
parliaments a say in European decision-making, the citizenship initiative will
empower citizens, budgetary power will democratize the European Parliament. The
Treaty of Lisbon is much more democratic than its previous treaties. Still the
Irish do not want it, and put up for referendum in other European countries, it
would probably fail as well. Three times "no" to Europe.
But: Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, and many more are knocking
on the door. This European club is so important to them that if they were asked
today they would say yes full-heartedly. What is wrong with this "state of
Actually, there is more right than wrong. It would be a democratic, yet an insane and premature decision to vote for something you do not know and understand. Turnout in Ireland was low, because most of the voters did not understand the Lisbon Treaty. Lisbon Treaty, Lisbon Strategy, Barcelona Process.... Do any of us who are not EU experts know what lays behind these nice city names? I do not form my opinions overnight, and certainly not if the matter is as complex as the Lisbon Treaty. In order to form an opinion, I need to discuss with many people. Citizens of Europe were not granted this opinion-framing time.
Europe has become too much of a central authority. Political dialogue and proximity to the people is lacking. When the French said "no" to the European Constitution, debate was lively on a high level. The European Commission created Plan D to foster dialogue on Europe. Heads of States decided on a new Treaty. We did not hear much of a debate in France from then on. And we did not hear much of a debate anywhere else. Why? Does Europe need to hide from its citizens?
The question is not whether we should continue to ratify the Lisbon Treaty and see what can be done about the Irish later. I do not think we can muddle in this way, hoping to thus finally somehow obtain approval from the Irish. This "no" was not caused by the contents of the Lisbon Treaty. In fact, the Union created by the Lisbon Treaty would actually be more democratic than the one in place under the current treaty. This "no" was caused by the feeling Europe is too far away from the people. This "no" is due to the lack of dialogue with the population.
France and Sarkozy alone won't help Europe out of this crisis. We will now need a commitment to Europe from all our politicians, our European, national, regional and local politicians. Heads of States need to talk and debate with their regional Presidents and mayors who in turn need to take the debate to their citizens in the streets, trains, supermarkets, restaurants, schools...Media will reflect this debate.
The Lisbon Treaty clearly states: "Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements." Talk to the voters. Involve them. The European Union is not a constraint.
Stephanie von Hayek works as policy officer for the Assembly of European Regions and is a freelance journalist in Strasbourg. This article reflects the author's personal opinion.