Europe of ‘different speeds’ no solution

Austrian Institute of International Affairs

The reactions in Austria ranged from expressions of regret to ones of approval, depending on the political party or the ideological background. The ruling SPÖ-ÖVP[1] coalition initially accepted and respected the Irish vote, and expressed the need for a better communication between ‘Brussels’ and the European population. Also, the Greens expressed their regret for the outcome, but stated that the governments were the ones to blame due to the lack of democratic principles and the disregard of social issues. The two right wing parties – the BZÖ[2] and FPÖ – were both content with the vote and the BZÖ called the ongoing ratification process in other EU member states a farce since they regarded the Lisbon Treaty to be dead.
 
Other voices like the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) suggested that the discussion should not be left to the EU opponents and that more communication was needed. The Union also insisted on the integration of more social issues. A more radical voice – Richard Wagner, writer and journalist in Berlin – said, in a maybe not entirely serious comment, that Ireland should be given the status of Turkey. Christian Felber from Attac[3] Austria pointed out that the Irish ‘No’ should be seen as a chance for a more democratic and a more ‘popular’ EU.
 
Many proposals from the media were made ranging from the idea of a ‘Core Europe’, including the expulsion of Ireland, to the repetition of the referendum, exceptions for Ireland, reduced Lisbon Treaty and some more proposals, which are more or less a variation of what has been said before. From the side of the political parties there were fewer proposals than comments; most voices said that this had to be discussed more deeply in Brussels with the other member states and by the Irish population. But nearly all agreed that a Europe of ‘different speeds’ was no solution. 
 
Expected short-term and long-term implications for the integration process
 
Two major aspects dominated the discourse: The first was how the non-implementation or suspension of the Lisbon Treaty will affect Austria, including such implications as: the reduced number of European Parliament members, and difficulties in the work of the EU itself. The second major concern was the implication for Croatia’s envisaged accession.
 
Since Austria can be seen as one of the most ardent promoters of the EU integration of the Western Balkan countries, particularly of the EU candidate Croatia, the outgoing Austrian government has been concerned with the cessation of the integration process in its direct neighbourhood. The Austrian government went even so far as saying that the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty was not a necessary precondition for Croatia’s accession.
 




[1] The SPÖ is Austria’s Social Democratic Party and the ÖVP Austria’s Conservative Party.

[2] The BZÖ is a spin off from the FPÖ.

[3] Attac is a civil society movement based in France, they engage for a more social and fair globalisation process.