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EU ministers meet after Irish blow to Lisbon treaty

Latest update : 2008-06-17

EU foreign ministers have met in Luxembourg, their first joint session since Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty in a referendum. France and Germany are at the forefront of efforts to keep the ratification process on track (Story: A. Georgian)

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg Monday following last week’s resounding Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, one that has plunged the 27-member bloc into a deep political crisis.

 

While there is a consensus on the need to somehow pick up the wreckage of the treaty, EU senior officials have conceded that it will be a tough job deciding just how that will be achieved.

 

Shortly after arriving in Luxembourg to chair Monday’s talks, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said “It is time for a little bit of thinking and analysis.”

 

The Luxembourg talks come ahead of a two-day EU summit in Brussels Thursday, which is expected to be dominated by the Lisbon Treaty.

 

The treaty, which is aimed at bolstering the EU's economic and political weight in the international community, cannot be implemented unless it has been approved by all 27 member nations.

 

 ‘Important to go through with the ratification process’

  

While conceding that the Irish vote had thrown a spanner in the works, Pascale Joanin, managing director at the Paris-based Robert Schuman Foundation, said there was “some agreement” among most EU heads of state “that they want to continue the process.”

 

Despite the Irish rejection, most member states have stated they intend to go ahead with the ratification process. So far, national parliaments in 18 of the 27 nations have completed the ratification process. Ireland is the only member state obliged to hold a referendum.

 

Speaking on FRANCE 24, Joanin said most European governments, “would like to go on to the end of the process,” referring to the ratification from the eight remaining nations. “At the end they (EU leaders) will have to go to the Irish and say, what do you want to do, because we are committed to the treaty, so what is it that you want us to do.”

 

Holding a similar opinion, Gaëtane Ricard-Nihoul, Secretary General of Notre Europe, a Paris-based think tank, told FRANCE 24 “It’s important to go through with the ratification process and see what we can do afterward.”

 

One possible outcome, according to experts, is that if the remaining 26 countries back the treaty, the Irish could be persuaded to try again in exchange for assurances on some – if not all – of the issues put forth by the Irish No campaign.

 

Sarkozy visits the Czech Republic

 

 But that may be easier said than done. Following Ireland’s rejection, all eyes are now on the Czech Republic, which is still to ratify the treaty.

 

In a break with his European counterparts, Czech President Vaclav Klaus hailed the Irish referendum results, calling it a “victory for freedom,” and insisting it spelt the end for the treaty.

 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country takes up the EU’s rotating presidency July 1, will visit the Czech capital of Prague Monday to defend the Lisbon treaty.
 

Date created : 2008-06-16

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