EU to Ireland: your referendum won't stop EU financial treaty
Germany is angry that Ireland plans to hold a referendum on a treaty that will impose strict budget controls on EU members. Ireland has twice rejected EU treaties — but this time, it alone cannot scupper the deal.
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Yesterday's decision to greenlight a public referendum was taken on advice from Ireland's top legal official, attorney general Máire Whelan, who said that "on balance" a public vote was demanded by the Constitution.
Many in Ireland's governing coalition, nervous about the possibility of a rejection, sought to avoid a referendum – with some support from the EU. Prime Minster Enda Kenny said passing the treaty was in Ireland's national interest and that he was "very confident" of a yes vote.
The compact imposes stringent budget controls on eurozone members, requiring that structural deficits not exceed 0.5 percent of GDP and that debt-to-GDP ratios be lowered to 60 percent and be kept at or below that level. Countries that run up excessive deficits will be subject to direct EU intervention in their economic policies and action can be taken against them in the European Court of Justice.
German news media today thundered about Ireland's decision.
Der Spiegel complained "the new architecture of the euro is threatened by a birth defect," while the Süddeutsch Zeitung warned "the outcome will have a much greater impact on Ireland than it will on the euro community."
Gerry Feehily, English-language editor at Paris-based PressEurop - himself Irish - says the German press's response mirrors wider fears across Europe, including in France, where an election is due in April.
"French president Nicolas Sarkozy for one would prefer this hadn't happened as he faces into a presidential election campaign," he says.
Mr. Feehily says the shockwaves sent out by the Irish decision are unrelated to whether or not Ireland itself plays ball. "It sets a precedent that austerity policies have to be put before the people, not just in Ireland," he says.