WORLD / Europe
All eyes on Ireland for fate of Lisbon Treaty
Updated: 2007-12-13 11:12
BRUSSELS -- All eyes are on Ireland for the fate of the Lisbon Treaty as it is the only country that will hold a referendum on the text, said an expert with a thinktank on European Union (EU) policies.
The Lisbon Treaty, which is to be signed by EU heads of state and government in Lisbon on Thursday, must be ratified by all 27 EU member states before it enters into force.
"The only country in which the ratification is at risk is Ireland because it is the only country where a referendum will be held," Antonio Missiroli, head of studies at the European Policy Center, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"Referenda, by definition, are unpredictable," he said.
All Euroskeptics across the EU, particularly those from Britain, will flock to Ireland in order to campaign for a "NO," he said.
The Irish referendum, which is required by the country's constitution, is expected to take place in spring 2008, almost the same period when the British House of Commons, where Euroskeptics abound, is expected to ratify the treaty.
There might be uncertainties in these two countries, said Missiroli.
He warned that the dynamics and the timing are important when it comes to the ratification process: which country will be the first to ratify; which will be the last? will there be hiccups in the process?
Missiroli also expressed concern that ratification can be dragged on in certain countries, for example, Belgium.
The complexity of the political system in the country dictates that ratification of the treaty must go through seven chambers. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of political agreement on the formation of a new federal government six months after general elections.
There were initially controversy even over the capacity of care-taker Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt as the representative of Belgium to sign the treaty in Lisbon.
EU leaders hope that all member states can ratify the treaty by the end of 2008 so that elections of the European Parliament in 2009 will not be disrupted.
Missiroli expressed "qualified optimism" over the ratification process of the treaty. However, he cautioned that Ireland is going to be a big question mark given the fact that voters in that country vetoed the Nice Treaty in 2001.
"If Ireland has a NO, there will be ripple effects elsewhere. Other parliaments will suspend ratification; there will be calls for referendums in other countries. That is the possible domino effect."