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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 16-Jun-2008
Europe in 'chaos' as Ireland rejects Lisbon Treaty

Web Log - June, 2008

Europe in 'chaos' as Ireland rejects Lisbon Treaty

The Europeans don't seem to have a clue about what's going on.

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European Union leaders appeared to be in a panicked state of emotional denial on Friday, as it became clear that the Irish voters had rejected the Lisbon Treaty by a referendum vote of 53.4% to 46.6%.

European Commission President Josť Manuel Barroso said:

"We recognise the Irish vote but ratification from the other member states has to continue. The treaty is still alive, Our position is very clear. Eighteen member states have already ratified the Lisbon Treaty while one rejected it. We must now continue with the ratification process in the other member states while continuing in a collective way to find a solution on how to move forward."

The problem with this idea is that the Lisbon Treaty was already a big political stunt, and what Barroso is saying is, in effect, "Let's look for another political stunt."

As I wrote two weeks ago, the Lisbon Treaty ratification effort is an attempt to get around the rejection of the EU Constitution by France and the Netherlands in two referendums in 2005. The EU politicians decided to draw up a new version of the Constitution, the "Lisbon Treaty," and have it ratified by the legislatures of the 27 member states, instead of asking the hoi polloi what they think.

This political stunt has now failed because Ireland's constitution required a referendum, and because the referendum has now been held and delivered a "No." So Barroso is essentially look for a new political stunt to bypass the Irish vote.

As I wrote last time, my own analysis of the 2005 French referendum vote indicates that the vote is divided along generational lines, with WW II survivors more often voting "yes," and post-WW II generations voting "no." Since the WW II survivors are dying out, there is going to be less and less support for an EU Constitution - or for its replacement, the Lisbon Treaty.

In fact, that's true in Ireland. The Irish voted in 1991 on the "Nice Treaty," a preliminary to the Constitution, and they voted it down. However, the referendum had a very low turnout, so that held another vote in 1992, and this time the vote was "yes," with a very high turnout. That's why some people are suggesting that the Irish might vote again.

But that won't work this time. In last week's Ireland vote, the turnout was very high in the "no" vote, indicating that the mood of the electorate has shifted since 2002 -- and that's because WW II survivors have been dying off.

EU politicians are saying some desperate things.

The German foreign minister says, "Of course we have to take the Irish referendum seriously. But a few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans."

To this, the British foreign secretary said, "There is no question of bulldozing or bamboozling or ignoring the Irish vote. The rules are absolutely clear. If all 27 countries do not pass the Lisbon Treaty it cannot pass into law." He added that a "two tier" Europe - with some countries pressing ahead with greater integration and others being left behind - was not "in our interests or going to happen."

This appears to be the first signs of bitter recriminations, such as those that followed followed the 2005 French referendum vote.

If you want to see what's wrong with this whole thing, just take a look at what a member of Malta's parliament said:

"It is bad news for Europe and bad news for Malta as we now stand to lose our sixth seat in the European Parliament.

There is no question that the Irish 'no' vote puts the entire ratification process in trouble. Perhaps the time has come for countries who want to take European integration forward to be able to do so without being held hostage by recalcitrant countries.

Member states who did not want to go along should be free to do so but why should they be able to stop all the rest from moving on.

Perhaps it is time for them to decide whether they want to stay in the European Union."

Here we again see the bitter recriminations building, but note the first sentence: "[W]e now stand to lose our sixth seat in the European Parliament."

Everybody in Europe is measuring this by asking "What am I going to get out of it?" Whether it's farm subsidies or parliamentary power, no one particularly cares about the EU as a whole. It's always "Me, me, me." That's true in the U.S. and other countries as well, as political bickering takes the form of selfish concerns.

When the United States was formed out of the Revolutionary War crisis, a lot of compromises were made, but everyone was desperate for a solution, rather than risk another war with Britain. If America had to vote today on the U.S. Constitution, it would never pass. Certainly Senator Obama would object to many things in it, and would never vote for it.

When Europeans signed the "Treaty of Rome" in 1957, giving birth to the precursor of the "United States of Europe," everyone was desperate to avoid another massive war on European soil.

Today it's just "gimme what I want," with no sense of the importance of the European Union as a whole, and what strategic role it will play in the world.

That's why these people are babbling such idiocy. They don't know what's going on in their own population, so they're pulling stunts to avoid having to let them vote, and then they make ridiculous statements. It would be fantastic to see a European say something credible about where the world is going. Instead, they sit in their easy chairs, enjoy their 35-hour work week, complain about the "Anglo-Saxon model," make pompous statements about "global warming" but do nothing about it, and make pompous statements about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but never live up to their own commitments. No wonder they can't get anything ratified.

I'll just describe one analysis of the Ireland vote, as a further illustration of how up-in-the-clouds these people are.

Exit poll results from 1992 and 2005 French referendums on European Union
Exit poll results from 1992 and 2005 French referendums on European Union

This is an analysis by economist Kevin O'Rourke, appearing on Nouriel Roubini's economics blog.

The adjoining graphic is taken from O'Rourke's posting. The table shown actually uses the same exit poll figures that I used in my 2005 analysis.

Here are the figures that break the "No" vote down by age:

|      |  1992 Maastricht     |      2005 EU        |
|      |    Treaty Vote       |  Constitution Vote  |
| Age  |        "No"          |         "No"        |
|18-24 |         49           |          56         |
|25-34 |         52           |          55         |
|35-44 |         49           |          61         |
|45-59 |         47           |          62         |
|60-69 |         45           |          44         |
|70-   |         **           |          42         |

Now, suppose you take that same table, and fill in the years of birth and generations:

|      |  1992 Maastricht     |      2005 EU        |
|      |    Treaty Vote       |  Constitution Vote  |
| Age  |   Birth    Gen  "No" |   Birth    Gen  "No"|
|18-24 | 1968-1974 GenXer 49  | 1981-1987 Millie 56 |
|25-34 | 1958-1967 GenXer 52  | 1971-1980 GenXer 55 |
|35-44 | 1948-1957 Boomer 49  | 1961-1970 GenXer 61 |
|45-59 | 1933-1947 Silent 47  | 1946-1960 Boomer 62 |
|60-69 | 1923-1932 Silent 45  | 1936-1945 Silent 44 |
|70-   |     -1922 GI     **  |     -1935 Silent 42 |

When you look at it this way, it's perfectly clear what's going on. Between 1992 and 2005, the Gen-Xers and Boomers became far more negative about the EU, while the Silents (WW II survivors) became more positive.

And yet economist Kevin O'Rourke doesn't even look at any of this. This is what I always complain about on this web site, because it drives me crazy. It's what I was complaining about a month ago with respect to the genius economists at Princeton If these high-paid economists at least looked at generational breakdowns, and explained why they disagreed with their importance, then I would be shocked. But this is evidently way too abstract for them to consider. It's just mind-boggling.

So instead, O'Rourke writes mindless stuff about politics, poverty and class, which is the only way these economists can think. He looks ONLY at the "Profession" section of the exit poll figures, and tries to base a political analysis on them. After a lengthy analysis, he finally says, "My claim is simply that economic interests were one factor among many, and should not be ignored." Well, what about generational differences? Why are those being ignored?

Anyway, the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, and the politicians' reactions to it, show that Europeans are nowhere near ready to accept the compromises require to form a union similar to the United States. Once there's a new major European war, as part of the Clash of Civilizations world war, then the Europeans will finally be desperate enough to enact a real Constitution. (16-Jun-2008) Permanent Link
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