Writing in the New York Times, Roger Cohen joins the chorus of over-ambitious bureaucrats and stumblebum statesmen ranting at Irish voters for having had the effrontery to vote against the EU’s non-constitution constitution. The Irish are, Mr. Cohen rails, an ungrateful lot, insufficiently grateful to the EU for the role it played in transforming the country from being “a beer-soaked backwater” into the Celtic tiger that it is today. This is, I’m afraid to say, not only insulting but also nonsense. Most Irish voters continue to be enthusiastic supporters of the EU, and most of them fully recognize the significant contribution that the Union has indeed made to the country’s development. But gratitude doesn’t give rise to an obligation to approve every major initiative taken by the Commission in Brussels, particularly where, as in this case, it is an initiative of such ill-repute that its architects have not dared to ask the voters in any other EU country what they thought about it.
There is so much else in Mr. Cohen’s article that is wrong that it is difficult to decide where to begin, and impossible to know where to end. I’ll just note that the jury is still out on whether the Ireland’s decision to join the Euro (something Mr. Cohen does find time to praise) was the right one – the European Central Bank’s interest rate policies have not been particularly well-suited to Irish needs. I also note that Britain’s decision to stay out (something Mr. Cohen implicitly criticizes) was, economically speaking, undoubtedly correct, while Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Greece must be beginning to regret the day that they signed up for a ‘one size fits all’ currency for which they were simply not prepared.
Oh yes, there’s one other thing for now: I was struck by the way that Mr. Cohen describes the new treaty as a ‘downsized’ version of the old constitution. It’s anything but. Both the designers of the new treaty and the architects of the old constitution have described the two documents as being, for all practical purposes the same. They are right to do so, and that is why the Irish were right to reject it.