After perusing the treaty, here's why I thought it was OK (not perfect, but hey):
- The parliament gets a little bit more power than what it currently has.
- The EU is just as limited in interfering in national politics as it is now.
- The Commission is no longer so strongly based on nationalities, freeing the commissioner to nominate those who are competent rather than just sucking up to each government.
- The president is now an elected post, and not rotated every six months as current.
- The foreign policy will be more coherent. Smaller countries such as Ireland will have more leverage on what the big countries do.
The problem with the treaty is that it goes into detail, and I mean a LOT of detail. Every little caveat and exception had to be written in to mollify the Finns, the Czechs, the Portuguese, the French, and so on. That is why treaties are normally ratified by parliaments where they can send it into committee like any other law, hold hearings and then vote.
As for the no voters, over here in Germany we had the feeling the biggest argument used was the tax issue. Ireland is currently low taxes and draws net subsidies from the EU. Losing the veto right means those subsidies were in danger, as the Givers could pink off the Takers one by one. But I also realise that's a German view, as the Germans pump tonnes more into the EU than they get, financially. Germans also are very keen on the EU, as they don't have as strong a national mentality as the French or the Italians. Germans still think of themselves as Bavarians, Saxons, Westphalians and so on.
Just off the top of me noggin, mind. None of what I say has been verified. :)
You know... the yes side over here didn't even go to that much trouble. They just threw slogans at us telling us how business would magically flourish. Ever since Nice, I've been mistrustful of anyone just saying Yes without giving any reason (well, that wasn't a direct result of Nice, but the fact that we had a second referendum on it was them slapping us in the face saying "You should be happy with our slogans telling you all will be well. Now vote yes goddammit.").
To be honest, the tax issue wasn't a killer for me, but I did wonder how losing a commissioner for 5 years in 15 was going to help Ireland in any way whatsoever. I mean, that effectively says that there's nobody able to speak out for us one third of the time. I really don't see any other country looking out for us - we're too small to really be bothered with.
The bottom line for me is entirely to do with them not being able to sell a relatively impenetrable treaty. Even the main politicians admitted they didn't read it all, yet they urged us to vote yes on it. Nobody was willing to step up and explain how certain things were good for us (something that you've gone a ways to do, thank you), and the last time they did that, they bullied us when we voted no. As a result, they needed a really strong argument to overcome the sentiments left by Nice, and they gave us slogans again.
I think most of the anger here is with the Irish government for botching the message so badly, letting the referendum become also a vote about the Irish leadership.
But to allay your fears about losing a commissioner: remember that commissioners are like cabinet members: each responsible for only a certain sector like transportation or such, and the number in the past meant arbitrary divisions to make room for enough commissioners. Do we really need the commissioner of dairy products AND a commissioner of agriculture? Does it help Ireland's transportation issues if Ireland designates the commissioner for mining? Reducing the number of commissioners and instead focussing on ensuring that their staff reflects all of Europe was the goal of the treaty.
The one issue that is the most important (and one of the reasons the treaty is so long) is replacing the current consensus model with a supermajority one. That means no single country can block progress any more: it was OK when there were just 12 members, but with 27 it has become impossible to reach consensus. That means the negotiators from all countries haggled, and the current compromise is a mixture of nations and populations, so that (a) small countries aren't overruled by large ones, as a "one person one vote" system would do, and (b) small countries can't gang up on the large ones, effectively meaning a minority of the population of Europe could force their will on the EU.
I don't think you're entirely right about the views about the current leadership flavouring the referendum: there is a lot of anger directed in the direction of the Irish government... actually no, not really the government but the Yes side in general over here. Again, had they put across what you've posted here, it would have been a much easier sell, but next to none of this was clearly articulated by them, and still isn't.
The vote didn't really strike me as being to do with the Irish leadership per se, especially as all the parties except Sinn Fein were urging yes. The only way it was to do with the leadership was to test if they'd actually respect how the people voted - in the case of Nice, they didn't respect it at all, with the EU and the former government were bopping us over the head saying "You voted wrong. Vote the right way in Nice II". That's as far as the leadership aspect went for me.
Anyway, there's more I want to prod about, but there's queer christmas to attend to. We have malevolent tofurkeys to roast, and people to stuff. :)
Just to be sure, it's not my opinion but that of German media talking heads (the opinion that the Irish were spanking their leaders). :)