Ireland: Europe, yes – USA, no thanks!

to me Eurobarometer 75% of the Irish population has a positive image of the European Union. However, the island nation repeatedly attracts attention by criticizing the union’s growing political influence. Treffpunkteuropa.de author Emilie Schreier explains why this discrepancy is not as contradictory as it might seem at first glance.

“There is a cure for that […] All of Europe in a few years […] Free and happy. This means consists in the renewal of the European family, or at least as large a part of it as possible. We must give her an order that she can live in peace, security and freedom. We have to establish a kind of United States of Europe.” Winston Churchill, 1946

Since the beginning of European unification, there have been repeated calls for the establishment of a United States of Europe. Ursula von der Leyen also spoke in 2011 about the creation of a supranational state for the European Union “According to the model of the federal states of Switzerland, Germany or the United States of America.” Outside. Today von der Leyen is the President of the European Union Commission and represents a supranational institution, that has gained influence over the past few years And the winner is.

But not every member state is convinced of this vision for the future. The most notable example is certainly the UK, which decided to leave the union in 2016. In the past, the UK was often dismissed as the black sheep of the union: it didn’t really want to be a member anyway and would mourn its past as a global power with embarrassment. But other member states are also criticizing more political integration without also aiming for an exit. If we take a look at the UK’s immediate neighbours, for example: Ireland has long been against the EU Commission’s expansion of its powers. At the same time, the member state has one of the highest approval rates in the European Union and is clearly pro-European. So where do your doubts come from?

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no other choice

Before Ireland joined the European Union in 1973, the young republic was considered one of the most isolated countries in Europe. The only economic and political relations were with the United Kingdom. When Ireland sought to join the European Union, it had no choice but to join the project. This context has had a lasting impact on Ireland’s relations with the European Union: sovereignty and the protection of the national interest are the dominant issues in Irish politics. Domestically, EU membership was justified by the need to consolidate independence from the United Kingdom. By joining the European Union, Ireland gained more wiggle room in its relationship with the United Kingdom.

Based on this experience, the Republic doubts the influence that major powers and supranational decision-making institutions of the European Union can exert on a small country like Ireland. At the EU level, Ireland wishes to enforce its national interests through national politicians. That is why the European Council serves as the primary reference point for Irish actors. Ireland has a strong pragmatism regarding the European Union. The national interest has always been placed above the great idea of ​​uniting Europe.

Gaining dominion instead of losing

Member states such as Ireland have never been interested in creating a United States of Europe. For them, the European Union provides a safe haven to secure their sovereignty. Since joining the European Union nearly 50 years ago, Ireland’s economy has benefited greatly from EU membership. The Republic was also able to improve its unequal relations with the United Kingdom and defuse the Northern Ireland conflict. These improvements have been rewarded with a high EU approval rating. At the same time, Ireland doubts whether all member states are equally represented by EU institutions.

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Recently, there has been a lack of confidence in the European Commission’s influence in the Brexit negotiations. Earlier, Ireland demanded that the European Council alone have the power to negotiate exit talks. This would ensure the influence of heads of state and government. However, when the commission appeared to protect Ireland’s national interests during the negotiations, Ireland’s confidence in it increased. In the end, it was this positive experience that led Ireland to accept the EU Commission’s authority in the negotiations.

More realism in dealing with small member states

Since the United Kingdom left the European Union, Ireland has moved more and more away from Great Britain politically and instead moved toward the European Union. The Irish government not only sees economic benefits in this, but also repeatedly stresses the EU’s need for peacekeeping.

From the EU’s point of view, this development is of course welcome. However, this relationship should not be romanticized by, for example, the State Department with the article that seems convincing. “Ireland after Brexit: European, especially now!” Do. It is certainly important to build confidence in the EU Commission and we can look forward to successes. But: there must also be more realism in dealing with small, marginal states in European politics.

Big countries like Germany and France do not have to fear losing power if the EU Commission increases its influence. On the other hand, countries like Ireland had to fight for their national independence for decades and were only able to assert national interests to a limited extent in the interaction of EU institutions. Ireland’s pro-European stance arose out of the EU’s interest in Irish interests, not because it believed in the overarching goal of a united Europe. In this regard, the growing confidence should not be misunderstood as approval of the growing influence of the EU Commission. Pro-European does not mean pro-national.

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