June 15, 2008

Irish Voters’ Rejection of EU’s Lisbon Treaty Brings Out Media Elitism

Irish voters struck a blow for national sovereignty a few days ago, and the world’s media elites didn’t like it one bit.

Here’s how the UK Guardian opened its “Darn those voters” coverage Friday morning:

Ireland today decisively rejected the Lisbon treaty on European Union reform, plunging the project into chaos.

Humiliated at the polls, the Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, admitted the country’s no vote had been a potential setback for Europe.

….. Less than 1% of the EU’s 490 million citizens appear to have scuppered the deal mapped out in Lisbon that was meant to shape Europe in the 21st century.

Ireland was the only one of the 27 EU member states obliged to hold a referendum on the treaty.

The official figures from the counts in 43 constituencies revealed that 53.4% of voters had rejected the document, while 46.6% voted in favour – a difference of 109,164 voters.

The US Constitution has about 4,400 words. The EU’s Lisbon Treaty alone has 260 pages. Perhaps Irish voters doubted whether member countries are getting any value for the $120 billion euros the EU bureaucracy will spend in fiscal 2008.

The Guardian’s next line of defense was to pretend that the EU is why Ireland has prospered (bold is mine):

Politicians in Dublin were stunned by the size of the margin in favour of the disparate no campaign, which comprised a vocal, well-funded free-market ginger group, the ultra-Catholic right, Sinn Fein and the far left.

They were also surprised at the hostility to the EU reform deal in Irish constituencies that have gained so much in European largesse.

….. Ireland may have enjoyed a net gain of €40bn from Europe since it joined what was then the EEC in the mid-1970s, but its voters were concerned about the loss of sovereignty, possible tax harmonization and a threat to the country’s neutrality.

(Aside: I believe that the correct translation of “ultra-Catholic right” would be “anyone who opposes abortion on demand.”)

As to economic matters, whatever the Guardian means by “net gain,” give me a break. The fact is that the Irish are responsible for their country’s marvelous prosperity, while Old Europe has languished.

Ireland’s policies of supply-side tax cuts and openness to professional-class immigration have turned the once economically-lagging island into a prosperous high-tech mecca. Ireland’s economy grew 5.2% last year. Meanwhile, France, Germany, and the UK grew 2.3%, 2.2%, and 2.6%, respectively. Based on data at this link, Ireland’s economy has more than tripled in size since the beginning of 1989, while France, Germany, and the UK have grown 46%, 37%, and 53%, respectively. It would appear that the Irish would rather not be held back or dragged down by Brussels bureaucrats demanding “tax harmonization,” which really means “big tax increases.” Who can blame them?

On the US side of the pond, the New York Times’s Sarah Lyall and Stephen Castle pitched in with their elitist perspective on Saturday (bold is mine):

Europe was thrown into political turmoil on Friday by Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, a painstakingly negotiated blueprint for consolidating the European Union’s power and streamlining its increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy.

The defeat of the treaty, by a margin of 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent, was the result of a highly organized “no” campaign that had played to Irish voters’ deepest visceral fears about the European Union. For all its benefits, many people in Ireland and in Europe feel that the union is remote, undemocratic and ever more inclined to strip its smaller members of the right to make their own laws and decide their own futures.

The Times writers act as if that’s a bad thing. The truth hurts, guys.

In a stunning contrast, considering the source, the Associated Press actually noted that Europeans across the continent appreciate what Irish voters did for them:

Ordinary Spaniards, Dutch, French and Britons, who wish they could get the same chance, might also say ”no” to the cold, distant heart of Europe.

”Spaniards feel Spanish, the French feel French, and the Dutch feel Dutch. We will never all be in the same boat,” said Eduardo Herranz, a 41-year-old salesman in Madrid, Spain.

Herranz said Europeans were right to feel alienated from bureaucrats in the EU base of Brussels, Belgium.

”You don’t decide on anything, and you don’t get to vote on anything they are talking about,” he said of the average voter. ”In day-to-day life, out on the street, the European Union is something very distant.”

….. ”It’s OK to belong to Europe, but I do not want to be governed by them,” said David Richards, 56, a tourist from Lincoln, England, on vacation in Dublin.

….. Citizens across the continent complain they have no direct power to influence EU treaties, which are produced in legalese too complex to understand. They say it’s not enough that their elected governments help to negotiate such treaties.

Maybe if reporters actually talked to ordinary Europeans more, and reprinted Brussels press releases less, they wouldn’t have been so surprised at the Irish outcome.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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