The voting system in the European Union can be a source of confusion. Women for Europe would like to let you know the facts!
Decisions can be made by unanimity or by Qualified Majority Voting ("QMV"). Lisbon will continue in this mode but with changes that are intended to help a much larger European Union to function effectively.
The national Veto can be used in areas of unanimity. Ireland has NEVER had to use its veto in our 36 years of membership.
Lisbon increases the number of areas where decisions are made by Qualified Majority Voting. This is done to ensure that the decision making process is simplified and more efficient, now that it involves 27 EU countries. Ireland, along with all other Member States retain the veto on key areas such as Taxation, Social Security and Common Defence amongst others. There are 60 areas of Veto.
To highlight how infrequent this situation is:-
In 2007 there were 508 pieces of law passed. Of the 425 of these that could have used QMV, 388 were passed unaimously. That's over 91%.
So what about the other 9% of decisions?
Our national interest has always been best served by the building of trust and friendship through a reputation for rational compromise. This is clearly seen within the European Union as Member States build up alliances among themselves to promote a postition or point of view. This will continue. Ireland is generally well perceived by its partners, and so far, has achieved far more from membership than we would have done alone on the periphery of Europe.
For a mesure to be passed at present MORE than a simple majority is needed. This is designed for the protection of smaller countries like Ireland. After Lisbon there will be a more effective and more a democratic voting system.
After Lisbon a DOUBLE MAJORITY will be required. First a majority of countries is needed - 55% of countries or 15 of the 27, and secondly a majority of people - 65%, is required. This is a finely balanced system designed to satisfy the people of small countries like Ireland who face being squeezed by larger countries, and to satisfy the people of the larger countries who face being stalled by the actions of a small country.