Eurosceptic says EU treaty bad for Ireland

(This story first appeared on May 28) By Jonathan Saul

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The European Union’s reform treaty is a bad deal for smaller states who will see their influence eroded in the bloc’s main decision making body, Danish Eurosceptic campaigner Jens-Peter Bonde said on Wednesday.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen this week described the treaty, which replaces a constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, as a “major victory” for small members such as Ireland that would protect and promote their interests.

Irish voters go to the polls on June 12 to vote on the treaty in the only referendum planned by an EU state, meaning one of the bloc’s smallest nations could sink a project designed to end years of wrangling over reform of its institutions.

Bonde, who recently retired after 29 years as a member of the European parliament and was involved in negotiations over the treaty, told Reuters he would have voted “no” if his country had held a referendum.

He said larger countries had already been steadily increasing their weight on the decision-making European Council.

“It (the treaty) is not an adjustment, it is a radical change where the small member states give in and the big member states win power in the Council,” he told Reuters in Dublin at the launch of his book on the treaty.

Opponents of the treaty say smaller states will see their share of votes shrink on the Council, which represents member states, as it is weighted according to population size. They also say that countries will lose permanent representation on the European Commission executive.

Bonde, who was the architect behind the Danish “no” vote in 1992 over the Maastricht treaty, said he was not in Ireland to encourage people to reject the bloc’s latest accord, but added he was critical of the document.

“It is bad for voters in all member states,” he said. “It moves decisions from the parliaments and the voters to the civil servants and ministers meeting behind closed doors in Brussels.”

Michael McGrath, a deputy from Cowen’s Fianna Fail party, rejected Bonde’s views.

“This treaty was negotiated by small countries and is deeply imbued with respect for their rights,” McGrath said.

Cowen said this week the treaty gave smaller countries substantial influence, with the support of at least nine of them required before a proposal could pass into law. In some cases a single country, whether Germany or Malta, will have a veto.

The treaty is designed to give the bloc stronger leadership, a more democratic decision making system and a more effective foreign policy apparatus. But the Irish government says a lack of major innovations makes it difficult to sell it to voters.

An opinion poll at the weekend showed the “Yes” camp’s lead was narrowing while bookmakers have slashed odds on a “No” vote.

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