After Ireland: referendum and unanimity

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Series Details No 62, 3 July 2008
Publication Date 03/07/2008
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After the experience of the failed European Constitution, the governments of the 27 EU member States sought to prevent referendums from being held to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Only Ireland, by constitutional imperative, submitted the text to a vote, receiving a ‘No’ which again places a spanner in the works of integration and questions the advisability of direct popular voting as a means of approving such a complex text. However, even more debatable than the referendum, considering the possible political contagion or adverse legal decisions in other member States, is the requirement of unanimity among all member States in the ratification of any reform in such a broad and heterogeneous EU. There are four reasons underpinning this criticism of the unanimity requirement: (1) it breaches the principle of equality among members; (2) it enormously reduces the possibilities of making any progress; (3) it perverts the democratic principle; and (4) it means that all the other member States must bear the cost of a decision of one member State.

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