Saturday, October 3, 2009
With the approval of over 67% of Irish voters in a nationwide referendum, the EU Treaty of Lisbon passed a major hurdle on Friday. This vote marks a dramatic swing from last summer’s referendum, in which 53% of participants voted against the Treaty.
Twenty-four of the 27 Member States have already deposited instruments of ratification. Only Ireland, the Czech Republic, and Poland have not yet ratified the treaty. In all three states, substantial progress towards ratification has been made, but several steps remain.
Parliament approved the Treaty in May, and the only remaining step is Presidential assent. President Vaclav Klaus, who opposes the Treaty, has yet to sign it. Several weeks ago, opponents of the treaty filed suit in the Czech Constitutional Court, seeking to block the President’s signature. President Klaus has vowed to wait until the Constitutional Court has issued its judgment before determining whether to sign it. The Court has not yet set a date for its judgment; observers note that it could be a matter of weeks or a matter of months. The Court is expected to set a timetable for the case later this month. When informed of the outcome of the Irish referendum, President Klaus reiterated his position.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who supports the Treaty, has said that he is convinced the Czech Republic will ratify before the end of the year. Fischer is scheduled to meet with Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt on Wednesday to discuss prospects for ratification in his country. Sweden holds the rotating Presidency of the EU Council.
Friday's referendum marks the final major hurdle to Irish ratification. Ratification will be complete with the signature of President Mary McAleese.
Parliament approved the Treaty in April 2008. Although President Lech Kaczynski has not made any public reply to the Irish vote, a Presidential spokesman reported on Saturday that he expected the President to sign the Treaty by the middle of next week. The President had withheld his signature in the wake of the Irish “no” vote last summer, but had promised to promptly sign the Treaty if the Treaty carried the day in Friday’s referendum.
In the United Kingdom, parliamentary elections are scheduled for the spring. Although the UK has ratified the Treaty (with Labour backing), opposition Tory leader David Cameron has vowed that, if he prevails in that election and if the Treaty has not yet entered into force, he will schedule a nationwide referendum, reviewing the UK’s ratification of the Treaty. Since the Treaty requires ratification by all 27 Member States in order to enter into force, a negative vote in the UK would be a tremendous blow to the Lisbon movement.