Ireland refuses to deliver timetable on EU treaty solution
20.06.08 @ 17:29
BRUSSELS - Over the course of hours of crisis talks in Brussels, Ireland found itself under heavy pressure to do something to fix its voters' rejection of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.
"There are colleagues who believe there is not as much room for manouevre as many people would like to suggest that there is," Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen told journalists on Friday (20 June) after a two-day summit with his counterparts.
According to the Irish leader, a number of EU states indicated they have "no interest in re-opening" the document, designed to simplify the way the 27-nation bloc is run.
The EU's latest attempt to undergo wide-reaching institutional changes was put on ice by Irish voters last week when they rejected the treaty - an outcome over which many EU leaders were "concerned" and "perplexed", Mr Cowen admitted.
He refused to speculate when he would come forward with some suggestions on how to move ahead with some member states said to feel that the only way ahead is a second referendum.
"I made it clear that however frustrating for them [EU leaders], it is simply too early to know how we are going to move forward on this point," Mr Cowen said, stressing this is an "honest" response he can offer.
"I can't say whether there will be any further referendums on this issue," he added.
Some member states are particularly concerned over future institutional arrangements linked to the European elections in June 2009, but also to size of the next European Commission, which under the current Nice Treaty has to be reduced.
But the current head of the council, Slovene Prime Minister Janez Jansa, tried to play down pressure at the member states' table.
"Any external pressure, any feeling amongst the people that their sovereign rights as citizens are being unduly interfered with could adversely affect ratification," he said.
"There is no pressure. There is no timeline," Mr Jansa insisted.
According to the summit conclusions, "more time is needed to to analyse the situation ... The Irish government will actively consult, both internally and with other member states, in order to suggest a common way forward."
It is now expected that the thorny topic will be formally re-visited during the first EU leaders' summit under the French presidency in October, with Mr Cowen coming back with a detailed report on the situation.
"This is the offer that he made and it should be supported," UK leader Gordon Brown said after the top-level meeting.
The 27 EU leaders noted that the ratification process "continues in other countries", although the Czech Republic secured a special "footnote" reference to its specific situation.
The treaty is currently under scrutiny by country's Constitutional Court due to concern over the clash with the Czech Republic's highest law, its constitution.
During the debate, Poland also secured a slight change to the text. It stressed that Warsaw cannot be included in a group of those who have ratified the treaty. President Lech Kaczysnki is yet to sign the document - something that is also not entirely straightforward.