The European dream embodied into EU was born from the fear from immobility of the desperate persons who eluded the tragedy of the war and wanted to gain the right to peace, freedom, food and dignity. These people chose their leaders
and followed them quite confidently. It is true that the generation of the
leaders who got out of the war also placed the interests of the people and peoples ahead of the partisan interests.
The Euro-skepticism, targeting the minimization if not even the annihilation of EU, burst out of the fear from change of the egotists who had got lazy in the decades of peace and who want to preserve the rights won in terms of protection and assistance, subsidies, scholarships, rents and pensions.
They do not believe in leaders and do not follow them – frequently also from the latter’s fault – and even do not look for them any longer. They prefer the populist managers who flatter their ego and appease their worries giving them the illusion that their good would be durable if they withdraw into a national provincialism and defend themselves against “the others.” This is the essence of the Irish refusal of the EU Reform Treaty. This is the essence of a problem which is not exclusively Irish.
The Irish “No” is not the result or the expression of democracy, but of the crisis of the latter. On the one hand, we have the inability of the mass to find or understand the solutions for the settlement of the complicate problems regarding the guarantee of security and social justice in the conditions of globalization. On another hand, we have the divorce between the people and the elites. The Irish referendum is not a victory of democracy, but a last blow to the idea of democracy. (Especially the direct one). Unwillingly and without knowing, the Irish proclaimed with the candor of innocence that the “king” of democracy is naked.
Undeniably, the European process cannot continue through referendum. Such a method does not function when the electorate is unequally informed and educated about the problems in discussion. The Irish reconfirmed the fact that politics has become a profession which supposes the knowledge of the complex compromises, the contextualization and the prioritization and which cannot be appropriated at mass level or practiced by the ordinary citizen of the complex contemporary society. Therefore, the Irish message is irrational and incomprehensible. The arguments expressed by the partisans of the rejection of the Reform Treaty do not have any connection with its objectives and content. Thus, the act of refusal cannot be translated into subsequent political action at European level because it was not learnt from the Irish what a likable treaty should look like.
Thus, the “No” is without consequences. The refusal of a treaty aiming to remove the EU from the blockage through the consolidation of the European institutions and the increase of their capacity to answer the European and global challenges, by the people who took a maximum advantage from the European integration can be explained only through its belief that the better would be the enemy of the good already obtained, and that this good could be preserved without reforms. Thus, it is clear that the lack of knowledge and understanding of the EU by the ordinary man does not conduct to under-appreciation alone, but also to over-appreciation. The
combination between contempt and idealization, between fear and illusion is lethal for EU. Not from the peoples, but from the leaders the remedy can come.
On another hand, if it is true that the European process needs leaders to lead not to be led, the Irish “No” also proved that the project of the united Europe cannot advance through the care of the national leaders. The latter are the first guilty of the fracture between peoples and elites. Then, they are at the origin of the national-populist propaganda which conducted to the separation between the people’s conscience and the European idea, between the European citizens and the political Europe. The European project claims European architects. The European political class cannot be reduced any longer to the conclave of the national leaders. Even before the birth of a European demos – in whose absence a European democracy cannot exist – a European elite able to assume directly the leadership of the process should appear.
Finally, the Irish refusal imposes the conclusion, so long avoided, that the European idea must be released from the captivity of the blockage minorities. A few tens of thousands of Irish cannot thwart the future of hundreds of millions of Europeans. The European Council will have to decide that from now on the European construction will advance without Ireland or with an Ireland which functions subject to special rules, as a lower category member.
The mutual respect that the Irish and the other European citizens owe to themselves imposes this separation as an undesired but inevitable evil. Not any European minority can decide for the others, it can decide only for itself. That who refuses the majority “de facto” refuses itself. Thus, the Irish make room for a smaller but more federal Europe.
Sixty years ago
1 hour ago