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A new deal for Europe

John F. Whelan argues that the Lisbon Treaty is a new deal for Europe
Looking back over the past 36 years, services of general interest, research,
the EU is not the same institution space, territorial cohesion, commercial
Ireland joined back in 1973. Then, it policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism
was a rather small club with institutions and administrative cooperation.
• Withdrawal from the Union: the Treaty
and electoral systems designed for a
of Lisbon explicitly recognises for the
league of nine connected countries. first time the possibility for a Member
Each country still maintained its own State to withdraw from the EU.
currency, trading rules, immigration
rules and agricultural policies. Should Ireland withdraw from
However, the EU and its member states
and citizens have accepted the need for
John F, Whelan the European Union?
A further ’no’ vote on October 2 would
change over the decades since then in the
• A more efficient Europe, with simplified A further ’no’ vote on October 2 would
pursuit of better living standards, better
working methods and voting rules, bring this into consideration. The many
security of employment, easier trading and
streamlined and modern institutions for benefits Ireland has derived from EU
freedom of movement of people, goods
an EU of 27 members and an improved membership need to be fully appreciated
and services, and capital.
ability to act in areas of major priority when considering whether Ireland should
Each significant change required big
for today’s Union. withdraw from the EU. And of course for
compromises by member states. Perhaps
• Effective and efficient decision making: each benefit there is some compromise and
the most remarkable one was that taken
qualified majority voting in the Council loss of sovereignty, we need to weigh up
17 years ago when Ireland and ten of our
will be extended to new policy areas to the costs and the benefits and decide.
European neighbours officially accepted
make decision making faster and more Since 1973 exports have grown from
the idea of a common currency.
efficient. a relatively small €1.3 billion to €154
The last decade, and the current period
• A more stable and streamlined billion last year. Our biggest customer
of unprecedented economic recession and
institutional framework: the Treaty of is Europe taking 47 per cent of all our
very high instability in stock markets,
Lisbon creates the function of President exports. The ‘Four Freedoms’ which are
has demonstrated the robust nature of the
of the European Council elected for the primary focus of the EU, has been at the
monetary Union and the many benefits for
two and a half years, introduces a root of our export growth. The freedom of
both countries and businesses in the Euro
direct link between the election of the movement of goods has ensured tariff free
Commission President and the results movement of our exports across Europe.
The single currency has led to an
of the European elections, provides The freedom of movement of services
increase in price transparency which
for new arrangements for the future will enable our services exports to take a
has helped Irish exporters targeting EU
composition of the European Parliament major leap forward, when the EC services
markets. It has also eliminated exchange
and includes clearer rules on enhanced directive comes into effect across the EU
rate risk for a large part of our trade and
cooperation and financial provisions. on January 1 2010.
reduced international transaction costs.
• The Treaty of Lisbon improves the The freedom of movement of capital
It is in the current harsh economic and
EU’s ability to act in several policy has already supported Irish industry with
financial environment, that the benefits to
areas of major priority for today’s major investments from the UK, Germany
a small open economy of being in a large
Union and its citizens. This is the case and France over the past three decades.
single currency area are most clear. The
in particular for the policy areas of And the freedom of movement of people
old ‘Punt’ would have suffered dramatic
freedom, security and justice, such as has been at the heart of the Celtic Tiger
volatility in the current environment with
combating terrorism or tackling crime. phenomenon, providing the staffing at all
consequent damage to our export industry,
It also addresses to some extent other levels of competence to support our rapid
which despite the global recession is
areas including energy policy, public growth.
trading relatively well, when compared to
health, civil protection, climate change, If Ireland was less dependent on
other countries.
exports and had a larger domestic market,
A bold step was taken back in 1999, with
then the issue of withdrawing from the EU
potential consequences far greater than
that at stake in the Referendum being held
“Since 1973 exports have grown would perhaps be worth considering. For
example. the UK economy exports 26 per
on October 2 on the Treaty of Lisbon. from a relatively small €1.3 cent of its manufactured goods, it could
billion to €154 billion last year. consider exiting and still be likely to be
Why does Europe need the able to sustain its economy, and similarly
Treaty of Lisbon? Our biggest customer is Europe for most EU countries. But the Irish
The EU has moved from a grouping of 15 economy is one of the highest dependents
countries to 27 over the past five years. taking 47 per cent of all our on exports globally, selling 80 per cent of
The current EU and EC treaties need to its goods and services abroad. Withdrawal
be updated with simplified systems and
exports. The ‘Four Freedoms’ from the EU would be catastrophic for
streamlining of the many institutions to which are the primary focus of the Ireland, sending the economy into terminal
enable the larger 27 member EU structure decline.
to function efficiency. EU, has been at the root of our
The Lisbon Treaty is a new deal for John F. Whelan is CEO of the Irish
Europe for the following reasons:
export growth.” Exporters Association

12 Public Affairs Ireland