In whatever walk of life, when something goes wrong someone has to take responsibility. The Irish voted No to the Treaty of Lisbon on 12th June, it’s caused a big problem for the EU, and so now it’s time to play the blame game – who needs to take responsibility for what happened? I’ll present the cases for and against, and the possible sanctions, and then you can vote…
(1) Charlie McCreevy – Irish member of the European Commission
CASE FOR: admitted during the referendum campaign that he had not read the Treaty of Lisbon, and would not expect Irish citizens to do so. Has stated that even now, after the No vote, he still has no intention of reading the document. Whether Ireland should maintain a Commissioner was an importan issue in the referendum campaign, and does this man inspire confidence?
CASE AGAINST: he had a job to do in Brussels, so was not central to the campaign in Ireland.
SANCTION: Barroso has a blank resignation letter from McCreevy that he could use to sack him – now – and Ireland would have to send a new Commissioner to Brussels. At the very least there’s no way the European Parliament would accept McCreevy serving a second term from 2009 (the PES is already upping the pressure).
(2) JosÃ© Manuel Barroso – President of the European Commission
CASE FOR: has been President of the European Commission during a period with 3 negative referendum results. He’s head of the Executive, so should take responsibility. He’s also been very lacklustre in his approach to communication – that’s the responsibility of the Member States in his opinion. He has also been very weak in his critique of McCreevy and has not been ready to sack him.
CASE AGAINST: he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he did make better efforts to explain the EU to citizens then Member States would criticise him.
SANCTION: he’s rumoured to want a second term as President of the European Commission. Now’s the time for Barroso to fall on his sword and say he won’t seek a second term.
(3) Peter Mandelson – Commissioner for Trade Policy
CASE FOR: he’s taken a liberal approach to negotiations in the WTO, arguing for reductions in farming subsidies that would hurt Irish farmers, a matter that was raised during the referendum campaign. He’s been vehemently attacked by Nicolas Sarkozy for his positions.
CASE AGAINST: trade policy is just that – a policy question, not something related to the Treaty of Lisbon. Plus Sarko can keep his mouth shut as the French were the first to vote against the European Constitution.
SANCTION: as for McCreevy he could be sacked by Barroso. He will not be seeking a second term of office anyway.
(4) Brian Cowen – Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
CASE FOR: leader of the Yes campaign in Ireland, responsible for running a campaign that was generally thought to be lousy. It was his job to present the Treaty of Lisbon to the Irish people and he failed to do it adequately.
CASE AGAINST: Cowen has only recently taken over from Bertie Ahern. He knew his job was not on the line. He had not been responsible for negotiating the treaty in the first place. His rational arguments could not rebut the scaremongering from the No side.
SANCTION: hard to say. At the very least a humble speech acknowledging the failings of his campaign, and some proposals from him about how the EU should move forward. We need something better than his 8 wishes.
(5) Bernard Kouchner – French Foreign Minister
CASE FOR: made extremely foolish comments about Ireland in the weeks before the vote, stating that a ‘no’ vote from the Irish would be greeted with “gigantic incomprehension” from the rest of Europe and that the Irish “have benefited more than others.” From someone within the French government this is both arrogant and incompetent.
CASE AGAINST: he’s a politician that shoots from the hip, and this does have advantages in other fields. Plus should the Irish have been so concerned about the views of a French Minister in this case?
SANCTION: Sarko could sack him as French Foreign Minister. He’s also been rumoured to be one of the candidates for High Representative for CFSP at EU level – forget it.
My choice: sack McCreevy now, and make sure Barroso does not get a second term.