Does 67% make a difference? In the second Irish referendum on Friday, the Lisbon Treaty was carried by a majority so substantial that even opponents of the agreement have been forced to admit that Ireland's voters are now clearly in favour of it. But questions remain.

The "No" vote in the initial Irish referendum on the treaty in June 2008 prompted a debate on how democracy should be managed in Europe. On the one hand, there were those who argued that a thumbs down from a single country, which represents less than one percent of the population of the Union, should not be allowed to block the implementation of a treaty that had been ratified by almost all of Europe's member states. Ranged against them were those who insisted that the strategy of ignoring the decision of the people in the only country to hold a universal vote, in the hope that they would back down a second time round, was completely unacceptable.

Last Friday's referendum and the significant development of support for the treaty will in part serve to reconcile these two opposing views. The organization of a second vote in Ireland naturally involved more extensive discussion of the content of the Lisbon Treaty, and the positive result of the "Yes" campaign must be interpreted in the context of a more evolved Irish understanding of the functioning of the Union and the role that Ireland will play in Europe. At the same time, Friday's vote was marked by a much tighter focus on the treaty, which set aside any question of discontent with the current national government led by Brian Cowen. On this basis, we can now say that the Irish are probably better informed on Lisbon than the citizens of any country in Europe — and the large majority that voted for the treaty on Friday may well indicate that a similar vote in another European country, where the treaty was appropriately presented as an initiative that goes beyond the narrow confines of domestic politics, would also be greeted with a positive result.

The Irish result is particularly good news when you consider that it is often said that Europe is afraid of its citizens, or on the contrary, that Europe is too complex and too important to be left to uninformed voters, who are unable to grasp the issues involved. If Europe's leaders resist the temptation to present every vote as one that is for or against the EU, there is much to be gained from constructive popular debate on the future of the Union.

Today, all eyes are turned on President Václav Klaus, who continues to block ratification of the treaty, claiming it goes against national interests of the Czech Republic, which only he is willing to defend. The question is: Mr. Klaus, why not let your fellow citizens decide?

E.M.