Cablegate: Tough Campaign Ahead for Eu Reform Treaty

DE RUEHDL #0044/01 0241421
P 241421Z JAN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000044



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2018


REF: 07 DUBLIN 849

Classified By: DCM Robert J. Faucher; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary: The Director of the EU Division at the
Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is optimistic that the EU
Reform Treaty referendum will pass in 2008, but not without a
robust campaign by Treaty supporters. While there will be a
lot of rhetoric and hand-wringing in coming months, we agree
that the result should be a "Yes" vote. End summary.

2. (U) During her visit to Ireland January 18, EUR/WE Office
Director Kathy Allegrone met with Department of Foreign
Affairs Director General, European Union Division, Daniel
Mulhall to discuss the EU Reform Treaty referendum (Reftel).
(Note: Ireland is the only EU member state to require a
national referendum to approve the Treaty. The Irish
government continues to insist that the Treaty be referred to
as the "Reform" rather than the "Lisbon" Treaty because it
believes the tag "reform" resonates more effectively with the
Irish public. End note.) Mulhall began by pointing out the
huge benefit -- over 57 billion euro ($83.3 billion) --
Ireland (a nation of 4.2 million people) has received from
the EU since joining in 1973. He noted that Ireland has
spent the money wisely and will soon become a net contributor
to EU coffers.

3. (C) Nonetheless, Mulhall said, euro-skepticism has crept
into the political landscape. People are starting to forget
what Ireland's economy was like before it joined the EU, he
mused. (Note: Ireland has one of the youngest populations in
the EU; in 2006 two-thirds of Ireland's population was under
45.) Some people, he said, are worried about increasing
globalization, immigration, and drift toward a more
federalized EU, and would like to put on the brakes. He
noted that current opponents of the Reform Treaty -- most
notably Libertas, a newly formed European movement against
the Treaty -- are much more sophisticated than past foes.
Libertas, for example, he said, purports to be pro-EU and
pro-buisness, but anti-Treaty, feeding on fears that Ireland
will become burdened by an excessive concentration of power
in Brussels, increasing EU bureaucracy and regulation, lack
of EU accountability and transparency, and a loss of its
traditional military neutrality through military
centralization in Brussels. (Note: Libertas, which appears
well organized, recently announced funding for a program to
deliver a "No" leaflet to every household in Ireland. End

4. (SBU) Mulhall anticipated that the Treaty campaign would
be tricky, saying that those in favor of the Treaty would
have to counter the sophisticated, credible arguments of
opponents and remind the Irish populace of the great benefits
to be realized from continued cooperation with the EU. At
the moment, Mulhall said, the Irish people have not thought
much about the Treaty. He pointed out a January 2008 poll,
which indicated that only four percent of the members of the
Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association felt they had
enough information about the Treaty and only 12 percent said
they would vote in favor of the Treaty today. Mulhall noted
that the opponents of the Treaty are currently much more
vocal and energetic than Treaty supporters. However, he
predicted that Irish public opinion would crystallize in
favor of the Treaty as the "Yes" campaign moved into high
gear, especially among the "silent majority." (Note: Most
political observers expect the referendum to be held in May
2008. End note.)

5. (SBU) Mulhall noted that there were some touchstone
issues for the Irish that could affect the outcome of the
referendum vote. One, he indicated, was the EU Common
Agricultural Policy, from which the Irish -- who hold tight
to their agricultural heritage -- have benefited immensely.
Any indication that the EU intended to reform the CAP before
its next scheduled readjustment in 2014, Mulhall stated,
would be anathema to the Irish public, as well as the
government, and would play into the hands of Treaty opponents.

6. (SBU) Mulhall noted that one difficulty for the "Yes"
supporters would be actually getting out the vote on election
day, saying that opponents of the Treaty would likely be more
motivated to take the trouble to vote than supporters.
Since, under Irish law the Government cannot campaign in
favor of the Treaty, it is up to the governing coalition's
political parties to fund a "Yes" vote campaign and get out
the vote. Mulhall said that the Treaty debate doesn't lend
itself easily to traditional Irish politics, where candidates
for office make great efforts to meet their constituents,
including campaigning door-to-door. He anticipated that
there would be reluctance to campaign in the same way for the
Treaty, which might reduce the effectiveness of the "Yes"

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7. (U) In the meantime, the Coalition Green Party was unable
to muster enough support at a special convention on January
19 to take a position in favor of the Treaty. Though the
Treaty is strongly supported by Green Party leadership, a
two-thirds majority of those attending the convention was
required to enable the party to campaign for the Treaty. The
vote was 63 percent in favor, leaving the Green Party
officially neutral during the campaign and removing one
source of political funding and support. (Note: Thirteen
additional votes would have been enough to push the party
over the two-thirds hurdle. End note.)

8. (C) Comment: In the end, Mulhall was optimistic that the
referendum would pass, saying that a "Yes" vote is needed so
that the EU can get on with the normal business of serving
the people of Europe. He stated that a "No" result in the
referendum, coupled with anticipated approval of the Treaty
by all other 26 EU member states, would create a political
crisis for Ireland. Such an outcome, he predicted, would not
unfold favorably for Ireland. From our perspective, it's
hard to fathom that the supporters of the Treaty will not win
out. The Green Party vote notwithstanding, all the major
political parties -- including the Opposition -- support the
Treaty. The government, though required to be officially
neutral by the Supreme Court, is in favor of the Treaty as
well, and will be transmitting that message in subtle (and
not so subtle) ways. The startling result of the first
referendum on the EU Nice Treaty in June 2001, which was
defeated, should ensure a lack of complacency on the part of
Treaty supporters. While there will be a lot of rhetoric and
hand-wringing in coming months, the result should be a "Yes"


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