19/10/2002 - Results
All Europeans are satisfied with the Irish, who by a very wide majority of 62.89%, accepted the ratification of the Nice Treaty and thereby provide "the go ahead for the enlargement of the Union" in the words of Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission. "This result is a very clear sign to the candidate countries, and that is we are taking their candidature very seriously" said a pleased Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, whose country is at present the president of the European Union. Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament believes that the Irish "yes" is a "yes to European reconciliation". In France President Jacques Chirac qualified this "yes" vote as an "historic chance", whilst Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin welcomed "a magnificent political opening towards the countries that are enlargement candidates". Many candidate country heads of State or government congratulated the Irish; Ms Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland, Mart Laar, Estonian Prime Minister, who went as far as qualifying Ireland as the "Estonia's eternal model, for both historic and economic reasons".
Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, appears to be the elections major victor and declared, "The Irish decision is a frank ‘yes' to enlargement and a warm sign of welcome to our friends from central, eastern and southern Europe (...) enlargement will overcome the divisions in Europe and for the very first time it will guarantee freedom and prosperity to the nations that belong to the European Union". We should stress that Bertie Ahern did not decrease his efforts during the entire campaign to convince his countrymen that they "had an appointment with History" - he even organised the vote on a Saturday in an effort to fight against abstentions. The victory of the "yes" is particularly welcome for the Prime Minister who easily won the general elections in June but who has had a rough ride in all the opinion polls since.
The victory of the "yes" in the Irish referendum enables the application of the Nice Treaty. This text plans for an adaptation of the three European institutions i.e. the Council of Ministers, the Parliament and the Commission when the new Member States enter the Union.
It stipulates that:
There will be a new weighting of the votes ranging from 3 to 29 (instead of 2 to 10 at present) in the Council. Although parity amongst the "major" States is maintained the "minor" States succeeded in imposing the rule that no agreement can be signed without the go-ahead from a majority of States.
a redistribution of the number of representatives in Parliament progressing 626 members to 732.
From 2005 on each State will only have one commissioner each. When the Union has 27 members European leaders will establish unanimously the number of commissioners that should imperatively be lower than the number of member countries. In addition to this the President, who is at present appointed by the European Council, will be elected by a qualified majority.
The Nice Treaty also plans to facilitate strengthened co-operation between States who want to be partners in a specific domain and extend votes to a qualified majority.
The European Council in Brussels - that took place on 24th & 25th October - comprises the next stage on the road to enlargement. The Union's heads of State and government came to an agreement on the amount of agricultural subsidies they are prepared to offer the new members and resolved the final problems such as those emerge in terms of competition policies.
The final stage will be the European Council in Copenhagen on 12th & 13th December where it will decided officially which 10 countries will join the European Union as from 1st January 2004. After settling all negotiations each Union State will have to ratify the new entrants' membership treaty and above all win the enlargement referendums that are planned to take place in all of the candidate countries. The way leading to enlargement is therefore a long one and is far from being clear of pitfalls.
Referendum Results on the Ratification of the Nice Treaty, 19th October 2002:
Source Agence France Presse