lunes, 28 de septiembre de 2009

Ireland: The case for a 'Yes' to the Lisbon Treaty

Ireland should vote Yes to Lisbon to boost business confidence and strengthen its political stance in the EU

Voting in a referendum to approve a Constituion is tricky. At stake is a technical text which the vast majority of voters don't necessarily understand. In 2002, the EU Constitution was rejected by the French and Dutch, but as we all know, they didn't vote against the text as such but expressed their frustration against the political establishment.

A vote on the EU Constitution was a foolish idea, even as its architext, the formidable Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, admitted. Enter the Lisbon Treaty, a shorter, easier to understand (?) text. It can be ratified by Parliaments in the EU member countries. Alas, not in Ireland, where it could only be passed via referendum. It was rejected the first time around. But this Friday, 2nd October 2009, the Irish electorate should not cast their vote thinking on domestic issues, and should not vent their (justified) anger against the government for the mismanagement of their economy. As this blog will argue, the Irish are better off voting Yes to Lisbon: it strengthens Europe, and is good for the Irish economy (and for that matter for all EU citizens).

This is a pro-business blog. We need to highlihgt that 90% of Irish CEOs back Yes, and also 91% of economists. Suffice to say that Sinn Féin (IRA politcal wing), Socialist Workers Party and dodgy Libertas are No campaigners for our readers to know where we stand. But we need to get to the bottom of what Lisbon entails, and to do that we need to focus on what is at stake now in this second referendum.

After rejection last year, soul-searching started. Some arrangements were made and Ireland has been promised to keep their commissioner. This is a key issue. Ireland is a small country and of course it fears becoming a non entity in the EU. The main reason for the resounding No in 2008 was losing a commisionner. This issue is now fixed.

And as importantly, the euro has been a safety net for the Irish economy. Iceland has shown how horribly wrong things can go by not being in the EU (tonge-in-cheek, the Irish capital was named Reykjavik-on-Liffey, and the joke doing the rounds was: what's the difference between Ireland and Iceland - one letter and six months). Even Denmark now considers joining the Eurozone. Ireland has been badly hit by the financial crisis and has suffered more than the French and Germans, countries that, technically, already bottomed out. The Irish, understandably, are now anxious about being left out of the club.

The No campaign claims that Lisbon will introduce a €1.84 minimum wage (currently at €8.65)and compulsory conscription. This is all bullshit. No evidence on these two points has been produced. Others complain it will bring decadence such as freedom to have an abortion or freedom to marry a person of the same sex. Others fear privatisation of health and education. It's hard to understand what drives the No campaigners, but whatever it is, they have failed to persuade intelligent voters.

Ireland has benefited from the EU. And it's time to move integration up a notch. Lisbon is good for business because it offers political stability and consequently reduces risk and uncertainty. And if it's good for business is good for the wider population. That's why this blog backs Yes, and I invite others to do so as well.

One of the leading figures for the Yes side has been Jim O'Hara, CEO of Intel. Also the colourful Rynair CEO, Michael O'Leary, among others like Nobel laureate Seamus Heany and, of course, U2.

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