Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The new cockpit of Europe?

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal editorial page (subs. req'd) places the Republic of Ireland at the centre of its Eurosceptic opposition to the proposed EU amending treaty, aka the EU Constitution --

But the real drama here is the potential for Ireland to become a proxy battleground for the anti-Constitution types who are being shut out of the ratification processes in their own countries. Countries that decide to ratify the treaty in their parliaments can be considered settled; local politicians might rant and rave about the usurpation of their authority by Brussels, but in the end few are likely to muster a majority against the treaty. That could leave Ireland -- and perhaps Denmark or the Netherlands, which may yet decide to hold plebiscites -- as the last stand for those who think the treaty is being pushed undemocratically.

It seems a bit fanciful to think of Ireland as the scene of an electoral siege of Vienna where the future of Europe is played out. If the referendum fails, it's more likely to be done in by traditional domestic politics, such as might happen with a newly elected government already displaying enough signs of arrogance to irritate a pivotal middle ground in time for the referendum. Then there's the fact that Bertie Ahern, usually seen as Europhile, turns out to have been letting Tony Blair play lead blocker on his own stealth opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights -- a revelation that could alienate the potential Yes vote in a referendum.

An influx of foreign campaigners would certainly liven things up, although the country already has some experience with this as the various abortion referenda have attracted significant interest from outside the country. But it's more likely that Ireland will be keeping the WSJ happy with its tax policies than with any derailing of the European project.