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French president defends Lisbon Treaty in Ireland

Latest update : 2008-07-22

As he flew in to Ireland on Monday to find a way out of the crisis sparked by the Irish veto of the Lisbon Treaty, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was greeted by angry militants and tense politicians.

Read more on the French presidency of the European Union



Hundreds of protesters greeted French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Dublin on Monday, angry after he said the Irish should vote again on the EU reform treaty rejected in a referendum.

Protesters chanted "no means no" as Sarkozy arrived for talks with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

Sarkozy, whose country holds the six-month rotating European Union presidency, says he will use his visit to "listen and understand" after Irish voters rejected the EU's plans for institutional reform in a referendum last month.

"There is no going back on this, unless they don't want to accept the democratic vote, which is absolute tyranny," said 55-year-old Patrick Walsh, wearing a sandwich board bearing a picture of Sarkozy and the words "no and no again".

The treaty is a replacement for the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005 and the culmination of eight years of diplomatic wrangling but it cannot come into force until it has been ratified by all member states.

Sarkozy caused dismay among Irish leaders last week when he said Ireland would have to vote again on the treaty.

Ailbhe MacThomais, a 42-year-old IT engineer, said the European Union could not demand a second vote just because it did not like the result of the first one.

"Not accepting the Irish vote or not accepting the Dutch or French vote is bringing back empires," said MacThomais. "They don't accept any other viewpoint except their own."

Sarkozy was also met by fishermen who gave away free fish to highlight their anger over high fuel prices and EU quotas.


Sarkozy's criticism of EU trade chief Peter Mandelson for giving away too many farm concessions in world trade talks won support from farmers however.

"Under no circumstances will we accept what Peter Mandelson has offered," said 52-year-old dairy farmer Frank Byrne. "We'd look to France for our biggest ally in Europe."

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) took out full page advertisements in newspapers on Monday, reminding Cowen he had pledged to veto an unacceptable World Trade Organisation (WTO) deal.

"If the WTO deal on the table this week were to go through, it would profoundly damage support in rural Ireland for a future Lisbon (treaty) referendum," IFA President Padraig Walshe said.

Cowen called for patience and understanding from his EU partners, writing in The Irish Times newspaper that the next steps could not be determined until a detailed analysis of the referendum result had been completed.

"I fully respect the verdict of the Irish people, and I have made that clear to my European colleagues," Cowen said. "And I have made clear that I expect them to do likewise.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore accepted a new invitation to a one-on-one meeting with Sarkozy having previously rejected as "pointless" another planned gathering that will give more than a dozen groups only an hour to express their views.

Gilmore, whose pro-treaty party is the third biggest in parliament, said there would be "straight talking" after comments by French ministers during the Irish referendum debate that had "contributed in no small measure to the defeat".

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday that Ireland needed a period of reflection.

"I think it is good and right to give Ireland this time," Steinmeir said in Berlin.


Date created : 2008-07-21