Ireland to hold EU treaty referendum in June
12.03.08 @ 09:13
The Irish government has indicated that the country's highly anticipated referendum on the EU treaty will take place in the second week of June.
Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told parliament on Tuesday (11 March): "The government have more or less signed off on the date. It is really a question about the day of the week.
"We are looking at the second week of June."
According to the Irish Times, the date will probably be Thursday, 12 June.
Ireland is the only country to have a referendum on the EU treaty, meaning that between now and the poll, the government and Irish voters will be carefully watched by both politicians and media from around Europe.
All 27 member states must ratify the treaty for it to come into force, with the goal for this to take place being the beginning of next year.
Ireland caused upset in the EU the last time it was in this situation. When voters rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001, it was then passed by a second referendum the following year.
But since the shock No votes of the French and Dutch voters in referenda on the EU constitution - the current treaty's similar-looking predecessor - in those countries in 2005, it is politically doubtful whether a No vote by the Irish in June could simply be followed by another referendum.
Unlike in the run-up to the first Nice Treaty vote, the Irish government has been much more pro-active. It has told Irish citizens the country will be isolated in Europe if the treaty is voted down.
The Irish Times reports that foreign minister Dermot Ahern told a parliament committee on Tuesday that the Referendum Commission - a independent body meant to distribute information on issues covered in referendum questions - will be given €5.8 million to inform the public about the EU treaty.
UK and Finland
Meanwhile, the British House of Commons has passed the bill that will ratify the EU treaty.
The bill received 346 votes in favour and 206 against, following around six weeks of bitter debate in one of the bloc's most eurosceptic countries.
It will now move to the House of Lords for a vote.
The Commons' vote comes after a failed attempt last week by the opposition Conservatives to win a referendum on the treaty.
So far, five countries have ratified the treaty - France, Romania, Slovenia, Hungary and Malta.
But in other countries, the treaty question is becoming tangled up in other issues. Slovakia was forced to put off a vote on the treaty due to an internal dispute over media law, while the Finnish media is reporting that semi-autonomous Aaland - an island between Finland and Sweden - is kicking up a fuss over snuff.
Finnish state broadcaster YLE reports that the Aaland government may reject the EU treaty - and undermine the country's general ratification of the treaty, due to a row over the right to sell snuff, a smokeless tobacco.
It is banned in Finland under EU law but Aaland wants to be able to sell it in Swedish waters where it is still legal, saying that otherwise it will lose port business.