Ratification process continued, opposition divided

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

The view of the government is that the Irish ‘No’ is a setback for the EU, which according to the Minister for EU Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, has accomplished to produce a draft treaty that is open, democratic, more efficient and better than any previous one.[1] Urban Ahlin, foreign policy spokesman for the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, agrees with her, seeing the Lisbon Treaty as better fit for a large Union, thus giving the EU better possibilities than the Nice Treaty to work with the important issues of continued enlargement, a new climate change agreement, stimulating growth, and building a socially fairer Europe.[2]
 
The views on Swedish ratification differ. Urban Ahlin argues that there are reasons to wait. The Polish President’s ‘No’to sign the ratification document and the German decision to let ratification be decided by the constitutional court underline the concerns that exist in Sweden after the verdict in the Laval case, and Sweden should therefore take its time to deliberate on whether it should ratify the treaty.[3] However, the Swedish government in early July decided to continue its process of ratification, Cecilia Malmström stating that, in spite of the Polish and the German decisions, the Swedish procedure, aiming at a decision in the parliament on 20 November, will not be delayed. A continued ratification process is also, she argues, in accordance with what EU heads of state and government agreed on at their recent meeting.[4]
 
As for the continued EU procedure, Swedish government representatives have been vague in their responses, referring to agreements made among the EU leaders. The first reactions from the Minister for EU Affairs, Malmström, and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt were that the primary task would be to find out more from the Irish on how they interpret the result, and thereafter the EU will analyse the result to see how to proceed. The Prime Minister emphasised that this situation has happened before and solutions have been found. The important thing is not to get stuck in institutional issues once again, since this might lead to a weakening of the Union.[5]
 
The opposition parties interpret the outcome in Ireland and the subsequent reactions as more serious than the government parties. Social Democrat Ahlin emphasises the failure of European politicians to sufficiently well explain the contents of the Lisbon Treaty and its advantages. The concern felt by people in Europe needs to be taken seriously, he claims.[6]
 
Even stronger reactions came from the Left and the Green parties, parties that are generally more critical towards the EU. Members of these parties have accused the government of not respecting the Irish ‘No’. They also see the differences in reactions to the French as compared to the Irish ‘No’ as demonstrating the lack of respect for small countries. Their view is that the Lisbon Treaty has been rejected and this has to be accepted by the European establishment.[7]



[1] GT, Expressen: EU-ministern Cecilia Malmström: Ett bakslag för EU (EU Minister Cecilia Malmström: A set-back for the EU), 13 June 2008, available under: http://www.gt.se/1.1198091 (last access: 19 August 2008).

[2] Socialdemokraterna: Urban Ahlin (s): Irlands nej måste respekteras (The Social Democrats, Urban Ahlin (s): Ireland’s no must be respected), 13 June 2008, available under: http://www.newsdesk.se/pressroom/socialdemokraterna/pressrelease/view/urban-ahlin-s-irlands-nej-maaste-respekteras-222304 (last access: 19 August 2008).

[3] Sveriges Radio: Svensk försiktighet kring EU-fördraget (Swedish caution regarding the EU Treaty), 2 July 2008, available under: http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/isidorpub/PrinterFriendlyArticle.asp?ProgramID=1630&artikel=2169462 (last access: 19 August 2008). The Laval verdict relates to the decision by the European Court of Justice on 18 December 2007, ruling that actions taken by the Swedish construction trade union were against the EU Posting Directive. The Latvian company Laval erected school buildings in Vaxholm, Sweden, and paid its Latvian employees according to Latvian rates, rather than the higher Swedish ones. The trade unions consider the verdict an attack on existing wage agreements and fear an increased pay dumping in Europe. See: www.euro-workscouncil.net (last access: 19 August 2008); EWC News, No. 4/2007, available under: http://www.ewc-news.com/en042007.htm (last access: 19 August 2008).

[4] Ibid.; Regeringskansliet (Government Offices of Sweden): Regeringen fattar beslut om Lissabonfördraget (The Government takes a decision on the Lisbon Treaty), Pressmeddelande (Press release), 3 July 2008.

[5] See GT Expressen: EU-ministern Cecilia Malmström: Ett bakslag för EU (EU Minister Cecilia Malmström: A set-back for the EU), 13 June 2008, available under: http://www.gt.se/1.1198091 (last access: 19 August 2008); Dagens Nyheter, 14 June 2008; Statement by Fredrik Reinfeldt, in: Committee on EU Affairs: EU-nämndens stenografiska uppteckningar (stenographic reports of the Committee on EU Affairs), 18 June 2008, pp. 2-5.

[6] Socialdemokraterna: Urban Ahlin (s): Irlands nej måste respekteras (The Social Democrats, Urban Ahlin (s): Ireland’s no must be respected), 13 June 2008, available under: http://www.newsdesk.se/pressroom/socialdemokraterna/pressrelease/view/urban-ahlin-s-irlands-nej-maaste-respekteras-222304 (last access: 19 August 2008).

[7] See statements by Jacob Johnson (Left Party) and Ulf Holm (Green Party), in: Comitte on EU Affairs: EU-nämndens stenografiska uppteckningar (stenographic reports of the Committee on EU Affairs), 18 June 2008, pp. 10-12.