EU embarks on voyage of discovery after Lisbon

Tony Barber, Financial Times, 09.10.2009

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EU embarks on voyage of discovery after Lisbon

By Tony Barber

Rarely has the Guinness flowed so freely at Kitty O’Shea’s, an Irish pub opposite the EuropeanCommission headquarters in Brussels, as it did last Saturday afternoon. That was when the news arrived from Dublin that Irish voters had backed the European Union’s Lisbon treaty in a referendum by 67 to 33 per cent, reversing their rejection of the charter in June 2008 and putting the 27-nation bloc within sight of concluding an often demoralising eight-year quest to redesign its operations.

Coming less than three weeks after EU governments settled another long-standing issue by persuading a majority of legislators in the European parliament to reappoint José Manuel Barroso as Commission president, the Irish vote put EU policymakers in their best mood for many a year. Europe, it seemed, was finally proving its critics wrong. To its doubting citizens and to friends and foes in the wider world, the EU would no longer look like some lumbering, multi-headed beast forever promising much and delivering little.

The celebrations were understandable. But the EU’s difficulties are far from over. The way the bloc functions remains in transition, like an industrial robot awaiting a new computer script. As Janis Emmanouilidis and Antonio Missiroli of the European Policy Centre think-tank say in a report this week, the Irish vote is a “precondition for a much better Union, though obviously not a sufficient one ... Even if the Lisbon treaty enters into force by early 2010, there still are grey areas to clarify.”...

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