Merkel to travel to Ireland for EU treaty vote
14.03.08 @ 09:14
German chancellor Angela Merkel is to travel to Ireland next month to help persuade Irish citizens to vote yes in the country's referendum on the EU treaty.
Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern on Thursday (13 March) said that Prime Minister Bertie Ahern had asked the chancellor "some time back", with Ms Merkel due to make the visit on 14 April.
She is expected to make a keynote speech in favour of the EU treaty, which Germany was largely responsible for putting together after its predecessor, the EU constitution, was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
"She's a plain speaker, good at communication. People would listen to her," said foreign minister Ahern, according to the Irish Times.
The chancellor was "a very impressive person," he added, while attending an EU summit in Brussels.
Ms Merkel is expected to speak at Ireland's National Forum on Europe as well as before both houses of parliament.
Ireland is the only country holding a referendum on the EU treaty - it is expected to take place in the second week of June - leading to tremendous pressure from other capitals on Dublin to secure a yes vote.
So far, five countries have ratified the EU treaty - France, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia and Malta. It needs to be approved by all 27 member states for it to come into force.
EU leaders are aiming to get it into place by 1 January next year.
But this timetable may be put into jeopardy by Germany itself as the document is to be challenged in the country's constitutional court.
The German parliament is expected to endorse the treaty on 23 May but centre-right MP Peter Gauweiler, from the governing Christrian Social Union, is to put in a challenge with the country's highest court after a parliamentary vote on national sovereignty
The challenge will mean that the last step of ratification, a signature by the German president to turn it into law, will be delayed.
Neighbouring Poland is also facing ratification problems after it emerged earlier this week that MPs from the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party have threatened to vote against the treaty.
The party, whose leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski negotiated the treaty, wants to ensure that the country's opt outs from the citizens rights part of the treaty are maintained.
The PiS votes will be needed in order to reach the two-thirds majority required for parliamentary ratification.