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 Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times

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PostSubject: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 12:28 pm

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/1010/breaking2.htm

Wallstrom says there are "No quick fixes" to the breakdown in communication between citizens and the EU. She wants a "Citizen's Summary" of the Lisbon Treaty. Unless it had legal standing, why would the distrustful electorate find that helpful?

Full text of Wallstrom letter on Irish vote:

Full text of the letter from Margot Wallstrom, Vice President of the European Commission on the lessons to be drawn from the result of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty

To the President and Members of the Commission

In the wake of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, much has been said about how best to inform the public and gain their confidence and support. Some of these issues emerged in the sharp relief in the post-referendum poll we carried out in Ireland. But we cannot treat the Irish “no” as merely a national issue or only a Treaty ratification problem. The difficulties encountered in explaining to citizens the rationale of the Lisbon Treaty and in clarifying that the European Union needs to be equipped for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges are difficulties which we encounter across the Union.

In October last year, we presented a communication on “Communicating Europe in Partnership” which outlined a number of ways in which the EU, through the institutions and the Member States, could address these challenges. I want to share with you now some thoughts on the lessons learnt on how to work together on communicating Europe, and some idea on the way ahead and on where greater efforts are needed, particularly in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in June 2009.

Lessons from the Referendum

Even though ratification of the Treaty is a national affair, there are some general lessons that can be drawn from the results of the referendum on how to communicate, both on the Treaty and on the EU more generally.

- The more emotive no campaign worked better than the more factual yes.

- Not enough was done by the yes campaign to reach out to young people and women.

- The internet was almost exclusively used by no campaigners.

- There was no effective rebuttal of misinformation about the Treaty.

The context of the vote in Ireland is also important. There has been a general deterioration of confidence among citizens in almost all Member States, similar in scale to the one that followed the events of September 11th, 2001. This appears to be mainly due to the difficult situation of the economy and of employment. It is certainly not related to the Irish referendum.

Consequences for Communication Policy

Overcoming the distance of the EU from its citizens is a long-term project, involving delivery of good policies as well as communicating them well. This Commission has taken the decisions to modernise and change the Commission’s approach to communication that can be summed up by:

– Two-way communications (listening as much as talking; responding to citizens’ interests and concerns);

- Going local (investing more of our communications resources in the Representations and redesigning their approach through Europe Houses and European Public Spaces);

- Strengthening and modernising our communication tools (through the adoption of new internet and audiovisual strategies);

- Stimulating political debates across Europe on the EU (Plan D/European Political Foundations regulation/Debate Europe/MyParl.);

- Strengthening our partnership in communication with the European Parliament, Council and Member States at national and regional level.

Some of these improvements will need some time before they have a real impact. Yet the political calendar requires faster delivery. As agreed by the June European Council, the ratification process will continue. With four more parliaments voting since the summit, 23 Member States have now approved the Treaty. The way forward will be explored at the October European Council. The Commission will continue to support those Member States that still have to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in order to ensure that the fullest possible information is available to the public. Voices have been raised calling for a “citizen’s summary” of the Treaty and the Commission could assist in its preparation.

Beyond the ratification process, the European elections will be the next important “test case” on which judgements will be made on the level of engagement of our citizens with the EU.

In this context, what can we already do now?

A. Agree a Partnership on Communication with the Institutions and Member States.

One aspect of EU communication which hasn’t changed is the blame game. We have a common interest to put an end to this, and it can only change if we are prepared to work together in Partnership, agreeing Priorities and Planning together (three Ps). It was to overcome past difficulties that the Commission proposed, in its communication last October, the creation of a framework to provide for better co-operation between the EU institutions and Member States while respecting the autonomy of all actors. This was well received in the European Parliament but got a more mitigated response in the Council.

Following the Irish referendum, the implications for communication were discussed in an informal meeting of the Presidency, Parliament and Commission in Strasbourg on July 9th and again at the informal meeting of Europe Ministers in Brest on July 12th. As a result, the Presidency is now willing to work towards achieving agreement on a partnership at the European Council in October, and will make an initial report to the General Affairs Council in September. Parliament maintains its strong support for such an agreement.

In addition, the Commission can continue to develop its individually tailored management partnerships with Member States to communicate on European issues together. After three were launched last year, a further six are being negotiated this year, and resources are available in the draft budget for further expansion next year.

B. Consolidate a new communications culture inside the Commission.

We need to accelerate implementation of our communication policies, putting into place quickly the new governance structure for communication inside the Commission we agreed in the screening. In particular:

- The Commission needs to address wider audiences, and specifically target women and young people through the media they use most: TV, radio, Internet. This implies accelerating the implementation of the Internet and audiovisual strategies to enable development of a new TV network, the overhaul of the Europa website, development of EU Tube and other internet portals, and greater use of blogs.

- Citizens’ summaries are proving a good initiative to explain Commission proposals in clear and simple language. They need to become a standard practice.

- Misinformation should be targeted, by activating a rebuttal function in the Member States and/or directly from Brussels.

- The Commission’s civil society contact points have to be developed further (including a specific web portal to allow easier access) and we need to invest more in civil society opinion-leaders in Member States.

- Greater efforts are needed to promote the use of Commission Staff as Ambassadors, and to provide the necessary training and preparation. Face-to-face communication should be further developed through the back to school, spring days and May 9th projects.

- Communication priorities should not only reflect the political agenda, but be decided on the basis of the daily concerns of citizens. This should be a part of the planning of the Annual policy Strategy and the Commission Legislative and Work Programme from the earliest stages.

C. Working to promote Participation in the EP Elections

Many preparations are already underway, and DG COMM is working in a task-force with the Parliament to develop plans, but in order to underline the importance of these elections in communication terms, a detailed proposal will be circulated to colleagues in September.

This will involve mainstreaming the elections into all of the work plans of both the Representations and in headquarters. It is likely that the elections will become one, if not the communication priority agreed between the institutions this year, and the Commission should put every effort into this work.

Improving communications and strengthening the trust and support of citizens for the European construction is a long-term project. There are no quick fixes. Nor can we opt out of the debate. It is not enough to do the right things - we must do them right too, and be seen to do so. If we do not engage the citizens others will, and often with less regard to the actual situation and the real complexities of the challenges we face. This is a permanent challenge for all of us and I look forward to discussing it will you in the autumn.

- Margot Wallstrom

© 2008 irishtimes.com
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:02 pm

Quote :
The more emotive no campaign worked better than the more factual yes.

I stopped reading after I saw this. The polar opposite of the truth. Outrageous. So the softening up and the lies begin all over again.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:08 pm

Aragon wrote:
Quote :
The more emotive no campaign worked better than the more factual yes.

I stopped reading after I saw this. The polar opposite of the truth. Outrageous. So the softening up and the lies begin all over again.
Truth is a relative term. I felt myself that the no campaign was more emotive, but not in as stark a manner as yer wan makes out.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:21 pm

Funnily enough, I thought the basis for communication was a two way exercise at the very least. The gist of the article seems to be that the EU institutions need to communicate their dream to us. Not too much on them receiving feedback except on correcting "misinformation" that the no side is supposedly conveying.

In fact, in summary, it is nothing more than an attempt to create an EU Ministry of Information. It disseminates the truth more efficiently and we will become more informed of the dream. Apparently, we will then believe. Bah.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:26 pm

Well rejecting their plans is more legitimate when we understand them. There was a lot of ignorance, on both sides probably.

Any plan to explain these things should be encouraged I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:37 pm

An impartial review and explanation of the treaty is to be welcomed. A PR exercise, as outlined in the article, is hardly the basis for such a review.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:46 pm

Quote :
we need to invest more in civil society opinion-leaders in Member States
.

Anyone got any suggestions for what this means ?


Last edited by cactus flower on Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:46 pm

rockyracoon wrote:
An impartial review and explanation of the treaty is to be welcomed. A PR exercise, as outlined in the article, is hardly the basis for such a review.

It is, surely, hardly surprising that the EU think that their position, if properly explained, would be seen to be a good thing?

Or are we assuming that the EU exists to knowingly and deliberately foist bad things on us?
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:47 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Quote :
we need to invest more in civil society opinion-leaders in Member States
.

Anyone got any suggestions for what this means ?

Any thoughts, Ibis?
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:54 pm

rockyracoon wrote:
An impartial review and explanation of the treaty is to be welcomed. A PR exercise, as outlined in the article, is hardly the basis for such a review.
A blatant PR exercise can be confidently and legitimately rejected by the voters, if they so choose. A large mass of 'don't knows' provides the Yes side with the reasonable excuse to question the results.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:55 pm

cactus flower wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Quote :
we need to invest more in civil society opinion-leaders in Member States
.

Anyone got any suggestions for what this means ?

Any thoughts, Ibis?

As far as I know it's eurocode for talking to people who are involved in 'civil society', which would include NGO's, think-tanks, pressure/lobbying/business groups etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:07 pm

ibis wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Quote :
we need to invest more in civil society opinion-leaders in Member States
.

Anyone got any suggestions for what this means ?

Any thoughts, Ibis?

As far as I know it's eurocode for talking to people who are involved in 'civil society', which would include NGO's, think-tanks, pressure/lobbying/business groups etc.

Maybe the best idea for the Commission would be to drop the eurocode. But without eurocode, is it possible to envisage a Commission?
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:27 pm

cactus flower wrote:
ibis wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Quote :
we need to invest more in civil society opinion-leaders in Member States
.

Anyone got any suggestions for what this means ?

Any thoughts, Ibis?

As far as I know it's eurocode for talking to people who are involved in 'civil society', which would include NGO's, think-tanks, pressure/lobbying/business groups etc.

Maybe the best idea for the Commission would be to drop the eurocode. But without eurocode, is it possible to envisage a Commission?

Impossible to envisage a bureaucracy without jargon. To be fair, they do it largely for the same reasons any other profession (such as IT) does it. "Civil-society leaders" is shorthand for a group of people difficult to define in any objective sense, but which one would have little difficulty pointing out as individuals. "Invest in" means spend time with, listen to the opinions of, try to engage the sympathy of, but unfortunately the financial meaning of invest imbues the word 'invest' with pecuniary overtones which in turn suggest some sort of corruption.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:40 pm

When I read the first lines, my first thoughts were: ok, someone wants to communicate. Communication involves listening as well as talking. I thought, for one brief moment, maybe someone was going to listen to the people who rejected the treaty and find out what their concerns really were. Hell, maybe they would take those concerns back to Brussels and say that there are parts of the treaty that don't sit well with the European electorate. Maybe part of the treaty should be re-examined.

As I read the entire article, those idealistic notions quickly evaporated. Oh well, the no side has to keep saying no because they are "misinformed" this time. If the people reject it again, another premise will be found until they understand and vote in the required manner. (Double standards do apply) The whole thing, and the various remedies espoused, has just left me personally cold and disinterested. There is no debate on Lisbon. Just the endless diversions.

This'll be my last post on Lisbon ever. If they get the treaty through, it's implications won't unfold, hopefully, to any great extent in my lifetime. Was developing a sense of ennui with regard to the economic situation as it slides downhill, and European politics, or what passes for politics, is leaving me completely bereft of any feeling or willingness to engage.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:07 pm

rockyracoon wrote:
When I read the first lines, my first thoughts were: ok, someone wants to communicate. Communication involves listening as well as talking. I thought, for one brief moment, maybe someone was going to listen to the people who rejected the treaty and find out what their concerns really were. Hell, maybe they would take those concerns back to Brussels and say that there are parts of the treaty that don't sit well with the European electorate. Maybe part of the treaty should be re-examined.

As I read the entire article, those idealistic notions quickly evaporated. Oh well, the no side has to keep saying no because they are "misinformed" this time. If the people reject it again, another premise will be found until they understand and vote in the required manner. (Double standards do apply) The whole thing, and the various remedies espoused, has just left me personally cold and disinterested. There is no debate on Lisbon. Just the endless diversions.

This'll be my last post on Lisbon ever. If they get the treaty through, it's implications won't unfold, hopefully, to any great extent in my lifetime. Was developing a sense of ennui with regard to the economic situation as it slides downhill, and European politics, or what passes for politics, is leaving me completely bereft of any feeling or willingness to engage.

I can empathise with that point of view, but can't sympathise with it. And still no-one has explained to me what these dire implications might be, which is pretty annoying at this stage.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:16 pm

ibis wrote:
rockyracoon wrote:
When I read the first lines, my first thoughts were: ok, someone wants to communicate. Communication involves listening as well as talking. I thought, for one brief moment, maybe someone was going to listen to the people who rejected the treaty and find out what their concerns really were. Hell, maybe they would take those concerns back to Brussels and say that there are parts of the treaty that don't sit well with the European electorate. Maybe part of the treaty should be re-examined.

As I read the entire article, those idealistic notions quickly evaporated. Oh well, the no side has to keep saying no because they are "misinformed" this time. If the people reject it again, another premise will be found until they understand and vote in the required manner. (Double standards do apply) The whole thing, and the various remedies espoused, has just left me personally cold and disinterested. There is no debate on Lisbon. Just the endless diversions.

This'll be my last post on Lisbon ever. If they get the treaty through, it's implications won't unfold, hopefully, to any great extent in my lifetime. Was developing a sense of ennui with regard to the economic situation as it slides downhill, and European politics, or what passes for politics, is leaving me completely bereft of any feeling or willingness to engage.

I can empathise with that point of view, but can't sympathise with it. And still no-one has explained to me what these dire implications might be, which is pretty annoying at this stage.

Aw c'mon Ibis, loads of people have explained them to you, you just don't agree with their prognostications.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:43 pm

The EU and the euro are being tested at the moment in ways far more important than the Lisbon Treaty. It remains to be seen if anything coherent and mutually supportive will be arrived at.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:10 pm

cactus flower wrote:
ibis wrote:
rockyracoon wrote:
When I read the first lines, my first thoughts were: ok, someone wants to communicate. Communication involves listening as well as talking. I thought, for one brief moment, maybe someone was going to listen to the people who rejected the treaty and find out what their concerns really were. Hell, maybe they would take those concerns back to Brussels and say that there are parts of the treaty that don't sit well with the European electorate. Maybe part of the treaty should be re-examined.

As I read the entire article, those idealistic notions quickly evaporated. Oh well, the no side has to keep saying no because they are "misinformed" this time. If the people reject it again, another premise will be found until they understand and vote in the required manner. (Double standards do apply) The whole thing, and the various remedies espoused, has just left me personally cold and disinterested. There is no debate on Lisbon. Just the endless diversions.

This'll be my last post on Lisbon ever. If they get the treaty through, it's implications won't unfold, hopefully, to any great extent in my lifetime. Was developing a sense of ennui with regard to the economic situation as it slides downhill, and European politics, or what passes for politics, is leaving me completely bereft of any feeling or willingness to engage.

I can empathise with that point of view, but can't sympathise with it. And still no-one has explained to me what these dire implications might be, which is pretty annoying at this stage.

Aw c'mon Ibis, loads of people have explained them to you, you just don't agree with their prognostications.

That's fair, of course! Still, I genuinely don't know what rr means by 'implications', unless it's "the EU will become a militaristic superstate inhabited by serfs" - and I was thinking of sane implications that might have some basis in reality.

There's a general assumption that because I oppose the No, I must be uncritically supportive of the EU, and of Lisbon. I'm not, but I really don't have much time for conspiracy stuff. Of course the EU could become the Sith Empire - so could the ICA, given sufficient time (Weimar became Nazi Germany, for example, but Weimar didn't imply Nazi Germany). So claiming that the EU could become an evil empire is not a meaningful statement about anything other than the state of mind of the person saying it.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:12 pm

cactus flower wrote:
The EU and the euro are being tested at the moment in ways far more important than the Lisbon Treaty. It remains to be seen if anything coherent and mutually supportive will be arrived at.

The benefits of mutual cooperation remain after a crisis, despite the every-man-for-himself response to the crisis itself. If we're lucky, the general decrease in goodwill might compensate slightly for the specific loss of goodwill towards Ireland - except of course that our bank guarantee was seen as pretty predatory.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:17 pm

It's almost hysterical that the two-way communications section deals only with one-way communication.

In no way has my opinion been sought, nor have I had an opportunity to put my views on voting no to Lisbon to anyone since June. The Forum on Europe virtually shut up shop when really, it should have been doing its most important work this summer. Local politicians I've spoken to haven't a notion about the thing and aren't afraid to say so off the record. Brian Cowen hasn't read the treaty and my conversations with him in the lead-up to the referendum weren't encouraging or particularly informative. Nor were the groupies on the Lisbon bus. I don't think politicians or Europe give a damn whether I am better informed or care why I voted no.

Which, I think is the point that Margot wasn't trying to get across.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:23 pm

ibis wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
The EU and the euro are being tested at the moment in ways far more important than the Lisbon Treaty. It remains to be seen if anything coherent and mutually supportive will be arrived at.

The benefits of mutual cooperation remain after a crisis, despite the every-man-for-himself response to the crisis itself. If we're lucky, the general decrease in goodwill might compensate slightly for the specific loss of goodwill towards Ireland - except of course that our bank guarantee was seen as pretty predatory.

The benefits remain, ibis - but does the desire for mutual co-operation remain when, if the run on banks is to be taken as an example, the current crisis indicates that people may feel the need to become more self-reliant, more insular, more independent? That may not be the best course of action, but I think it's a natural response and in the absence of trust -and in Ireland's case there is a lack of trust in the light of the continued ratification of Lisbon and the prospect that we will be asked to vote again - I don't see the European project being considered positively at all by the Irish.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:24 pm

ibis wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
ibis wrote:
rockyracoon wrote:
When I read the first lines, my first thoughts were: ok, someone wants to communicate. Communication involves listening as well as talking. I thought, for one brief moment, maybe someone was going to listen to the people who rejected the treaty and find out what their concerns really were. Hell, maybe they would take those concerns back to Brussels and say that there are parts of the treaty that don't sit well with the European electorate. Maybe part of the treaty should be re-examined.

As I read the entire article, those idealistic notions quickly evaporated. Oh well, the no side has to keep saying no because they are "misinformed" this time. If the people reject it again, another premise will be found until they understand and vote in the required manner. (Double standards do apply) The whole thing, and the various remedies espoused, has just left me personally cold and disinterested. There is no debate on Lisbon. Just the endless diversions.

This'll be my last post on Lisbon ever. If they get the treaty through, it's implications won't unfold, hopefully, to any great extent in my lifetime. Was developing a sense of ennui with regard to the economic situation as it slides downhill, and European politics, or what passes for politics, is leaving me completely bereft of any feeling or willingness to engage.

I can empathise with that point of view, but can't sympathise with it. And still no-one has explained to me what these dire implications might be, which is pretty annoying at this stage.

Aw c'mon Ibis, loads of people have explained them to you, you just don't agree with their prognostications.

That's fair, of course! Still, I genuinely don't know what rr means by 'implications', unless it's "the EU will become a militaristic superstate inhabited by serfs" - and I was thinking of sane implications that might have some basis in reality.

There's a general assumption that because I oppose the No, I must be uncritically supportive of the EU, and of Lisbon. I'm not, but I really don't have much time for conspiracy stuff. Of course the EU could become the Sith Empire - so could the ICA, given sufficient time (Weimar became Nazi Germany, for example, but Weimar didn't imply Nazi Germany). So claiming that the EU could become an evil empire is not a meaningful statement about anything other than the state of mind of the person saying it.

The Weimar Republic didn't "become" Nazi Germany. Effectively, there was an election-covered putsch, and a complete political break.
I wouldn't have any views on the Sith Empire. The ICA ??? Ibis.... this is really just rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb, isn't it? Have you had a long week? Time to put the feet up and have a nice cup of tea or something stronger.


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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:26 am

Kate P wrote:
ibis wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
The EU and the euro are being tested at the moment in ways far more important than the Lisbon Treaty. It remains to be seen if anything coherent and mutually supportive will be arrived at.

The benefits of mutual cooperation remain after a crisis, despite the every-man-for-himself response to the crisis itself. If we're lucky, the general decrease in goodwill might compensate slightly for the specific loss of goodwill towards Ireland - except of course that our bank guarantee was seen as pretty predatory.

The benefits remain, ibis - but does the desire for mutual co-operation remain when, if the run on banks is to be taken as an example, the current crisis indicates that people may feel the need to become more self-reliant, more insular, more independent?

Not really. It shows, rather more, that the member states can move faster alone than together, which isn't very much of a surprise - however, the individual actions taken immediately haven't prevented coordination on a joint response (indeed, an international response), which suggests the will to cooperate is there alright.

Kate P wrote:
That may not be the best course of action, but I think it's a natural response and in the absence of trust -and in Ireland's case there is a lack of trust in the light of the continued ratification of Lisbon and the prospect that we will be asked to vote again - I don't see the European project being considered positively at all by the Irish.

That would be a very great pity, and a very grave mistake. We don't have a future outside the EU. Nor is our negative view based on anything the EU has actually done to us - it has done us nothing but good.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Sat Oct 11, 2008 8:03 pm

I see there were "no means no" demonstrations in Brussels today with flowers, candles and crosses.
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PostSubject: Re: Margaret Wallstrom Letter to the Irish Times   Sat Oct 11, 2008 8:10 pm

cactus flower wrote:
I see there were "no means no" demonstrations in Brussels today with flowers, candles and crosses.
That the WACI one?
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