October 4, 2008
Jean-Claude Juncker’s view that the Lisbon Treaty cannot come into force until 2010 is entitled to serious consideration. Pressurising the Irish to change their minds could have the reverse effect. But the warnings of two prominent MEPs, Jo Leinen and Alain Lamassoure, must also be heeded. A further delay could have adverse repercussions in the Czech Republic and the UK. The Austrian general election result may be a taste of things to come.
The unratified treaty could wreck the European Parliament elections and help produce a more diverse and more Eurosceptic assembly, which may even threaten the effective operation of the co-decision procedure.
While decisive US action may have averted unmitigated disaster, there remain huge uncertainties in the financial system and Western economies are in serious trouble, with Ireland the first Member State formally to enter recession.
We have several years’ struggle ahead of us, and decisive action will be needed at national and European level, and Europe will need to act together on the global stage. Questions that must be debated during the election campaign include the future role of government in the financial sector; the kind of regulation that is needed; the level at which it is needed; and how to balance the safeguarding of the financial system with ensuring that the right people benefit from government action.
And this inevitably means a transatlantic battle. Despite recent events, capitalism is seen quite differently in the US and in Europe. There is, of course, no such thing as a free, unfettered market on either side of the Atlantic. The US economy is also substantially regulated and publicly funded. However, there are fundamentally different approaches to profit-making, risk-taking and the role of the state and government.
If Europe wants seriously to influence these fundamental decisions that will be taken over the next few years, the Union must not be paralysed by indecision brought on by the Irish ‘No’. Financial and economic policy cannot be divorced from politics. We need the strong external line-up and increased efficiency of working methods envisaged by the Treaty of Lisbon, and above all, to demonstrate our ability to act decisively together. The future shape of our societies will be moulded in the coming years, and we must ensure that this not be decided by others because of our own default.
That is why the Irish electorate must be asked to ratify the treaty – with appropriate explanations and safeguards – but early next year. The pressure comes from world events, not from the other Member States.Author : Stanley Crossick