The World from Berlin 'The EU Has to Stop Trying to Change its Citizens'

Lech Kaczynski's newfound skepticism of the Lisbon Treaty is yet another blow to the European Union in the wake of Ireland's 'No' vote. German papers warn that Brussels needs to recognize the growing sense of mistrust among EU citizens.

EU and French flags at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

EU and French flags at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

As the French six-month presidency of the European Union kicked off on Tuesday, it looked increasingly as if the Lisbon Treaty was in the process of unravelling.

Following the rejection of the EU Reform Treaty by Irish voters in June, Polish President Lech Kaczynski announced on Tuesday that he was unwilling to sign the treaty. He told the Polish dailyDziennick that it was now "pointless" to sign the treaty even though Poland's parliament had already voted in favor of ratification.

The EU leaders had initially agreed to go ahead with ratification in the other 26 member states with the hope that the Irish government could somehow find a way around its citizens' "No" vote. However, it now looks as if the Irish referendum result could have given a boost to euroskeptics across the continent. Czech President Vaclav Klaus has already said he thinks the treaty is "finished." The Czech Constitutional Court is currently assessing whether the charter is compatible with the national constitution.

Germany's highest court is also expected to review legal challenges to the reform treaty, and President Horst Köhler has said he would not sign it until the Federal Constitutional Court has issued its ruling.

German papers on Wednesday assess the impact of these delays and doubts on the ratification process. Many are calling for Brussels to step back and listen to Europe's citizens.

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"Encouraged by the Irish vote, euroskeptics are cropping up everywhere. The latest to throw a spanner in the works is Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who is now refusing to sign the treaty which has already been passed by parliament."

"Before that the Austrian Social Democrats had demanded a referendum on the EU question ... The Czech leadership's skepticism is well known, while in Germany there are delays to ratification due to challenges filed with the Federal Constitutional Court."

"French President Nicolas Sarkozy is seriously mistaken when he suggests that the problem should be 'limited to the Irish.' The lack of acceptance of the EU lies much deeper than many European politicians would like to think. This is based on many different fears and on a lack of knowledge. However, it is also being encouraged by politicians who would like to blame Brussels for everything that goes wrong. It will take time and effort to overcome this."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Despite the confident noises coming from Paris, the French presidency will be burdened with a problem that cannot be solved by Sarkozy's hustle and bustle or by an ambitious schedule combined with business as usual in Brussels."

"The methods of achieving European integration have been successful for 50 years but they have become worn out. Many voters mistrust these methods, and quite a few simply reject further integration. That may well be short-sighted but the referenda in France, the Netherlands and now Ireland have shown it to be a political fact. Whether Lisbon fails or is saved in the end, one thing is certain: A public debate about the meaning and the goals of the EU is long overdue."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Although (Lech Kaczynski) took part in negotiating the treaty at every stage and signed the text at the ceremony in Lisbon last December, he has never lost his skeptism. Kaczynski wants to prevent Brussels from interfering in national politics ..."

"The Polish president may be showing disloyalty to his European counterparts. However, he will probably attain his goal. With more disruptive action by some member states, the political will to go ahead with ratification in those states that are still undecided will be weakened. Ireland will not be isolated. The buck will simply be passed back to Brussels, where the helpless response will be: Take time to consider, enter into a dialogue with the citizens and go back to start the reform process from scratch."

The business daily Handelsblatt writes:

"The euroskeptics are already celebrating the fact that the Lisbon Treaty is dead. That is nonsense. What is true is that risks of it failing are growing …"

"Some governments behave differently in Brussels than they do at home. No one likes to be the one to disagree at the meetings of the EU leaders. However, back home many realize that there is not much enthusiasm for the treaty. Ratification requires a lot of political energy. If this is lacking there is a great temptation to hide behind the delays in another EU state and hit harder on the brakes. That is why it would be a mistake to play down the threats by the Polish and Czech presidents not to ratify."

"The basic problem of the European unification process is that deeper integration, which is desired by governments and parliaments, weakens national statehood and conjures up other problems: Referenda in smaller EU states, the political caprices of individual politicians like the Polish president, and judges, who in an increasingly interconnected world still rule on the basis of old national structures. All of them block a democratic EU capable of dealing with the challenges of the future."

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"It is clear that this is more that an erratic rebellion by the usually so pro-European Irish, who just need to be put under a bit more pressure to make them more compliant."

"By stubbornly pushing through of this process, Brussels risks hardening many Europeans' image of the EU: That it is something where 'those up there' force something on the ordinary people. Or that something is put to the vote repeatedly until the result suits the politicians."

"The idea of a core Europe or a two-speed Europe is not at all the heresy that some make it out to be. It has long been reality: Many states do not participate in one of the key issues of European integration: the single currency. Has this damaged the EU? Another successful model of two speeds is the Schengen Agreement."

"There is no need for the current state of perplexity. European politicians should stop acting as if there is no alternative to the Lisbon Treaty. ... Those who want a future for the European Union have to stop trying to change the citizens. Instead they should change the policy."

-- Siobhán Dowling, 12:05 a.m. CET


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