Reforming the European Union: Realizing the Impossible

By Daniel Finke; Thomas König et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
In the Aftermath of the Negative Referendums:
The Irish Resistance

Thomas König and Daniel Finke

IN THIS CHAPTER we will analyze the last stage of the reform process: the role of the German Presidency in managing the reform crisis by proposing the Treaty of Lisbon and the subsequent reaction by the Irish government and voters. On 21 June 2007 the political leaders met in Brussels and agreed on a reform proposal replacing the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, which had been rejected by the Dutch and French voters two years earlier. The meeting took place under the German Presidency, with new German Chancellor Angela Merkel leading the negotiations as President in Office of the European Council. The agreement was documented in a sixteen-page mandate for an intergovernmental conference that proposed removing much of the constitutional terminology and many of the symbols from the text of the reform treaty. In addition, it was agreed that it would be recommended to the intergovernmental conference that the provisions of the Constitutional Treaty should be amended with regard to a few substantial issues, such as delaying reform of Council voting rules, judicial cooperation, and the binding force of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Nevertheless, the deal brokered by the German Presidency maintained the overwhelming majority of the reform issues proposed under the compromised Constitutional Treaty.

The puzzle for this chapter is why the Presidency favored such an encompassing reform while knowing that its ratification would be far more uncertain compared to the less ambitious proposal called a “mini-treaty” that had been circulating at the time. This is the last episode of the trialand-error story in which a strategic, risk-taking leader finally managed to turn failure into success. What are key differences between the Treaty of Lisbon and the Constitutional Treaty signed in October 2004? First of all, the June 2007 meeting introduced the label Reform Treaty, finally acknowledging that the constitutional approach was abandoned. Technically, the Reform Treaty would amend both the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC) to include most provisions of the Convention’s proposal, but would not combine them into one document. It was also agreed that the TEC, which was the main func-

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