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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 2-Jun-2008
Ireland may block Lisbon treaty for new European Union in June 12 vote

Web Log - June, 2008

Ireland may block Lisbon treaty for new European Union in June 12 vote

Those opposed to ratification appear to be gaining ground, according to some news reports.

Here's the latest polling data:

    How would you vote in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty?
    |         | May 21 | May 7 | Apr. 23 |
    |Yes      | 41%    | 38%   | 35%     |
    |No       | 33%    | 28%   | 31%     |
    |Not sure | 26%    | 34%   | 34%     |
    Source: Red C / Sunday Business Post

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The "Yes" vote is still ahead of the "No" vote by 41% to 33%, but politicians are concerned that the "No" vote is increasing faster, and that over one quarter of the polled voters still answer "Not sure."

(When one choice in a poll is "politically correct" and the other isn't, there's an inclination for those favoring the second choice to say "Not sure," rather than admit they favor the choice that's not "politically correct.")

The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty would be yet another major blow to the entire "EU project" that was almost completely derailed in May, 2005, when voters in France and the Netherlands voted "No" to ratifying the proposed EU constitution. The Lisbon Treaty is an attempt to accomplish, with a treaty, the main elements of the Constitution that EU politicians believe are necessary for functioning of the EU government.

That voting "Yes" is the politically correct choice is apparent by the fact that all mainstream media outlets are evidently in the tank for it.

Here's how Germany's Der Spiegel describes the situation:

"The future of the European Union now hangs on how the voters in this small country on the far western edge of Europe vote on June 12. And with less than two weeks to go to polling day, the referendum debate has been hijacked by issues that have little to do with the Lisbon Treaty. While many have accused the campaign against the treaty of being aggressive, populist and misleading, the reality is that it has also been pretty successful."

You can see from the wording how Ireland is described disdainfully as "this small country on the far western edge of Europe," and how the treaty's opponents are described as "aggressive, populist and misleading."

An article in Times Online doesn't take sides, but describes the negative effects of a "No" vote:

"Several politicians stand to be big losers if Ireland votes “no”. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has staked her reputation on reviving the failed constitution. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to preside over the appointment of the EU president and foreign minister when his country assumes the rotating presidency for six months in July. A “no” vote would potentially wreck his cherished EU presidency — including plans to enhance European defence capabilities.

Perhaps the man with most to lose is José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, whose claims to a second term rest on implementation of the Lisbon treaty."

The rocky road to an EU government

Once upon a time, in the early 2000s, the "European Union project" and the EU Constitution seemed like sure things. Everyone was in favor of them, because they would create a unified country, just as the United States had been unified in 1789 by its Constitution (assuming that you forget about what happened in 1861).

The French referendum in May 2005 changed all that and shocked everyone, when voters rejected the proposed EU constitution.

June 2005: Jean-Claude Juncker, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac
June 2005: Jean-Claude Juncker, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac

At an acrimonious European summit meeting in June 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Jacques Chirac exchanged vitriolic accusations over how the EU budget, especially the agricultural subsidies, were to be divided among the EU members. Six months later, Tony Blair caved, and only that way could an interim EU budget agreement be reached.

These events completely derailed the "EU project" plans, and sent EU leaders back to the meeting rooms to figure out what to do next.

They initially decided on an education campaign so that voters would accept the EU constitution next time.

The generational factor

European politicians, journalists and analysts are completely oblivious to the generational factors controlling the "European project," even though the generational factors are so obvious that you'd have to be blind to miss them.

During the run-up to the 2005 French referendum, young people were quoted as worrying that low-paid East European workers would come to France and take all the jobs; the symbol adopted by opponents of the constitution was the low-paid Polish plumber who comes to France and steals a job away from a well-paid French plumber.

But there was a different kind of opinion expressed by an elderly French voter to a BBC reporter: "My grandfather fought in World War I. My father fought in World Wars I and II. I fought in World War II. And now, for 60 years, my children and grandchildren have lived in peace. That's a good enough reason to me to vote 'yes' on the Constitution."

Last year, a news report quoted a 50-year old man as saying, "My parents had experienced two wars before (the EU was founded). My father lost his brother. I have the opportunity to live in peace here."

These quotes show anecdotally what the generational differences are. Those who favor the EU project, usually older generations, see it as a way of preserving peace; those who oppose it, usually younger generations, see it as costing them money and jobs.

I've never seen a published analysis that acknowledged this obvious fact, or its obvious consequence: That the EU project is becoming less and less popular, as generations that survived World War II disappear.

Breakdown of French vote by income, May 2005 <font size=-2>(Source: WSJ)</font>
Breakdown of French vote by income, May 2005 (Source: WSJ)

All the published analyses focus on income and class. Why did poor people vote this way, and rich people vote that way? Why did upper and lower classes differ? Magazine articles can go on for pages discussing this stuff, and then reach sanctimonius conclusions about why the upper classes are preying on the lower class. The adjoining graphic, published on page 1 of the Wall Street Journal just after the vote, is typical.

This is all total, utter nonsense. It's totally meaningless.

Many people go through periods in life when they're doing well financially, and other times when they're in trouble financially. But do their major political opinions change as their incomes go up or down? I don't know anyone who's like that.

What DOES matter, as I've shown over and over and over and over on this web site, is that whether you're rich or poor, upper or lower class, it matters much less than what generation you were born into.

That's certainly true of attitudes towards the EU project, as I showed in my own analysis of the French referendum vote. I was able to find an age-based breakdown of the referendum exit polls, as well as the results of the 1992 vote on the Maastricht treaty.

When you look at the age-based votes, you immediately see that the split is between those who born during or before World War II versus those born after. Older generations voted in favor of the constitution (because they believe that it will bring peace), and younger generations voted against it (because they believe it would cost them money).

And that also explains the income graphic displayed above: Older people make more money than younger people, and that's why people with higher incomes are more likely to vote "Yes."

How stupid do all these politicians, journalists and analysts have to be not to see something so obvious?

And once you realize what's going on, you also realize that the Constitution is not going to be ratified by the people of Europe. The more time goes on, the more opposition will grow, since there will be more people from post-war generations. It's hardly more complicated than that.

The Parliamentary work-around

When Nicolas Sarkozy took office as President of France in May of last year, he immediately flew off to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to begin work on one of his campaign promises: To lead the effort to develop a "mini-treaty" that will provide some of the changes that Constitution would have provided, but few enough changes so that a new referendum can be avoided altogether.

It's a great idea: If the people refuse to vote in favor of what you want, then find a way to get what you want without letting the people vote.

The elements of the Constitution would be reworked into a treaty, and the treaty would be ratified by the various parliaments of the 27 EU member countries. Sarkozy hoped to get it all done by June of last year.

That didn't happen, of course. Things moved more slowly in many countries' legislatures. Only 14 EU nations' parliaments have ratified the agreement to date, and it's hoped that 12 more will do so by the end of this year.

That leaves Ireland. Sarkozy's grand plan may founder because Ireland's Constitution does not permit simple parliamentary ratification of this treaty. A referendum is required, and it's scheduled for next week on Thursday, June 12.

The issues

One theme that I keep coming back to on this web site is that, in country after country that fought World War II as a crisis war, the governments are becoming increasingly paralyzed.

Whether it's South Africa, France, America, Japan, China, Europe or Israel, the government is unable to do anything because of internal bickering.

This current situation with the Lisbon Treaty is a good example of why it happens.

After a crisis war, the survivors are all unified in their determination that nothing so horrible should ever happen again. Very often, this determination is stated as President Truman did in 1947 in his Truman Doctrine as a money issue: that no matter how much it costs to prevent another crisis war the cost is far less than the cost of the crisis war itself. This is part of the debate today over the Iraq war, as its cost is measured against the cost of a full-scale world war.

About 60 years after the Crisis war ends, the generations of survivors are almost all gone, and the post-war generations have no such determination. They're worried more about costs than in preventing a new world war. Since the old generation leaders can't handle these attitudes, they become paralyzed.

The full text of Lisbon treaty is available online, if you care to read it. But if you do, you'll be one of the very few who have done so. It's long, it's boring, and it's just a laundry list of stuff.

That's why the Lisbon treaty is in trouble, according to a letter to the editor:

"We are hearing quite a few arguments against the Lisbon Treaty -- such as the loss of our commissioner for at least five out of 15 years, the primacy clause, and so on.

I have noticed that every time any 'Yes' campaigner is challenged on any of the concerns raised, they simply deny that these issues are a problem or contend that they don't exist at all.

[Ireland's foreign affairs minister Micheál] Martin especially has become particularly fond of the phrase "That is simply not true".

I also notice that no concise reason for voting 'Yes' is being communicated to the public, nor is any evidence being offered to back up Government denials.

As a citizen, I believe it would be grossly irresponsible of me to vote 'Yes' because a politician says it is "Good for Ireland, Good for Europe".

Why is it good for Ireland?"

Since almost nobody has read the Lisbon Treaty, and few people know what it's about, it's an easy target for various kinds of accusations:

Each of these issues has a response that begins with "That is simply not true," as the above letter-writer describes, but the problem is that there's no comparable list of benefits to Ireland if the treaty is ratified. The question, "Why is it good for Ireland?" has never clearly been answered.

Thus, the New York Times reports in its Sunday paper, "European Bloc at Standstill Pending Vote in Ireland":

"Referendums are always dangerous, and almost all countries decided not to have one on the Lisbon Treaty, which requires the approval of all 27 member nations of the European Union to come into force. But the Irish did not shy away, and the prospect of how they might vote has caused jitters across many capitals. ...

And with opinion polls showing much of the Irish electorate undecided, the possibility that the Lisbon Treaty may be rejected has sent unfamiliar tremors of fear through the ranks of Europe’s top bureaucrats, who rarely have to trouble with voters.

This has brought a kind of unacknowledged but collective halt on anything controversial, particularly if it might upset Irish sensibilities."

The future of the European Union

I always like to say that great ideas are born and developed during Awakening eras, and are either implemented or killed off by Crisis wars, and that's certainly true of the European Union project.

England, France and Germany have had numerous bloody genocidal wars with one another over the centuries, especially since 1066, and the vitriolic arguments that occurred in the June, 2005, EU summit meeting showed that the bitter feelings between France and "Anglo-Saxon society" still exist.

It was on March 25, 1957, that the "Treaty of Rome" was signed, giving birth to the precursor of the "United States of Europe." The objective was specifically to prevent yet another European war.

The European Union will almost certainly come into existence as a powerful, unified nation, but not before there's another crisis war. The younger generations today are too worried about costs, and not worried enough about the next world war. All that will change when the world war actually occurs, and tens or hundreds of millions of Europeans are exterminated, as has happened so many times before. After that, people will be willing to listen to reason.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the outcome of an election depends on chaotic events that can't be predicted, and so it's impossible to predict the outcome of the June 12 Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. But the trend is so clear that we can at least say that history is on the side of rejecting the treaty, and that even if the treaty is ratified, a lot of it will never be implemented. (2-Jun-2008) Permanent Link
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