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Europe's future in Irish hands

Ireland votes on a make-or-break treaty to strengthen the European Union. For economic and security reasons, it should vote ‘yes.’

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The future of the European Union hangs in the balance as Ireland votes Oct. 2 on a treaty to strengthen the EU. Two historic events should push them toward "yes" – the "great recession" of 2009 and Russia's invasion of Georgia last year.

Friday's vote is a do-over for Ireland. In 2008, its voters said "no" to a proposed pact that would streamline EU decision-making and raise Europe's profile on the world stage. They worried that the Lisbon Treaty – a revamped European "constitution" – would override national rights on near-and-dear issues of abortion, corporate taxes, and military neutrality.

Dublin has since worked out guarantees for this check list, and polls show an inclination to approve. But Europe is still holding its breath. The leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic have yet to sign the treaty, although their parliaments have approved it. They would likely fall into line if Ireland gives the nod.

Foremost in the thought of the Irish should be two questions pertinent to members of this unwieldy 27-nation bloc. What has the EU done for us lately? What could a new-and-improved EU do for us in the future?

The answer to the first question can be found in the great recession. The crisis has pounded Ireland like the ocean on its rocky coast. It dumped dreadful unemployment (12.6 percent) on the nation and seriously eroded economic growth. For the first time in 20 years, Ireland is experiencing net emigration (more people leaving than coming).

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