Is the vote overrated
"The role of the treaties is also overstated"
Christoph Heinemann: We stick to the EU summit in our minds. Before this broadcast, I asked Hubert Védrine, former French Foreign Minister of the Socialist Party, how he interpreted the Irish no?
Hubert Védrine: From the outside, this appears to be a people and an electorate that has no interest in further European integration and sees risks rather than advantages and is satisfied with the current situation.
Heinemann: Mr Védrine, a derogation for Ireland and a new referendum - could that be a way out of the current crisis?
Védrine: I am not sure if this is feasible. It would be awkward with the Irish electorate to start talking about a new vote now. This would leave the impression of a European machine that would not accept the democratic voting of a people. The Irish might think that this is the reaction because they are a small people. International law is clear on this issue: you can only change a European treaty unanimously - regardless of how big a country is. The Irish might think that if a larger country had voted no they would not propose a new vote. Everyone in Europe knows that if referendums had been held everywhere, there would have been a lot of no.
It is normal to think about the future. But it would be psychologically awkward to talk about a new vote by the Irish every day from now on. That would mean denying democracy. In due course, those in charge of politics in Ireland, together with their European partners, will see whether public opinion has developed in such a way that a new vote can be called. And until then we will simply continue to work within the framework of the Nice Treaty.
Heinemann: Should the ratification process continue?
Védrine: There is no reason to stop this. But that doesn't change anything: we need unanimity to replace one contract with another. Those who say no hope that after 26 ratifications there will be greater pressure on the Irish to vote again. But that's not for sure.
Heinemann: Mr Védrine, can the European Union function in the long term under the Nice Treaty?
Védrine: The proof that it can work was the German Council Presidency. Everyone in Europe has said that Mrs Merkel's presidency has been a remarkable one. It took place within the framework of the Treaty of Nice. The announcements for the French presidency in the coming six months on energy policy, immigration, the environment and agriculture - all within the framework of the Treaty of Nice. Even in the best case scenario, a new contract would not come into force until 2009. Of course we have an interest in a contract that makes decisions easier and faster. But the role of the treaties is also overstated. Big projects are also possible, even if the contract is imperfect. Do you remember the epochs of Kohl, Mitterand, Delors, which many in retrospect consider to be the golden age. Nobody knows anymore which contract was valid at the time.
The role of the institutions is sometimes exaggerated. Progress is possible when there is political will. Take the example of the common energy policy that we need. The problem is not the contract; The problem is disagreement over nuclear power and attitudes towards Russia. No magical contract will regulate that. Big things can be set in motion if governments want them to. If there isn't a perfect contract, don't be discouraged, move forward anyway.
Heinemann: Does that also apply to future enlargements, including negotiations with Turkey?
Védrine: There is no hurry at all. Everyone knows that the negotiations with Turkey started with a decision of principle in 1999 and that they will take a very long time. Nobody knows how it will turn out. Nobody can predict whether the member states will then be ready to ratify an accession treaty. Much is unclear, but that does not apply to the immediate present. Everyone knows that President Sarkozy is against it. Everyone knows that Ms. Merkel is not in favor either, but because of the agreements in the coalition, she does not say so. At the moment we need not worry about the functioning of Europe because of this.
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