US congressmen rebuff Irish anti-Lisbon links
10.12.08 @ 09:25
BRUSSELS - US congress members have poured cold water on a European Parliament query about potential foreign funding for the anti-Lisbon treaty campaign in Ireland, in line with expectations.
"Our congressional colleagues drew our attention to a statement from US deputy secretary of state John Negroponte at Trinity College Dublin on 17 November, completely refuting the suggestion of any US dimension whatsoever," British conservative MEP Jonathan Evans told EUobserver on Wednesday (9 December), after returning from a European Parliament delegation to the US.
"On the contrary, both Democrats and Republicans re-affirmed their keenness to work with a strong and coherent EU, comments recently accentuated by president-elect Obama," he added.
German socialist MEP Helmut Kuhne asked US lawmakers at the meeting in Miami if the US government had in any way supported Irish businessman Declan Ganley, whose Libertas organisation was among groups which campaigned for a No vote in the Irish referendum in June.
The query was made following informal instructions from the office of European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering, after German green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit in September suggested the Pentagon or the CIA may have helped Mr Ganley in order to weaken the EU.
Mr Cohn-Bendit continued in a similar vein last week at a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, saying Mr Klaus should not have met with Mr Ganley during a recent state visit to Dublin because of the "problematic" financing of the businessman's political activity.
When asked in Dublin last month if the US government had helped Libertas, Mr Negroponte said: "absolutely not. I say that on very good authority, not only being deputy secretary of state but also being a former director of national intelligence."
Mr Ganley's company, Rivada Networks, makes communications equipment for the US government. But he has denied any US link to Libertas and promised to take Irish politicians to court for "grossly defamatory" statements on the subject.
The Irish government is widely expected to run a second referendum on Lisbon in October 2009, after negotiating a package of sweeteners from EU states at this week's summit.
The package is set to include keeping an Irish commissioner and securing declarations to protect Irish neutrality, taxation and anti-abortion laws, which would later be given legal force by being lodged at the UN or tacked on to Croatia's EU accession treaty.
Mr Ganley is likely to remain a force in European politics for some time to come. Libertas opened an office in Brussels last month as part of his plans to run in European Parliament elections in June.
Meanwhile, the Czech parliament on Wednesday put off until 3 February a vote on Lisbon ratification as the ruling conservative ODS party tries to secure socialist support for hosting a US anti-missile shield first.
The move means the Czech EU presidency will start work in January as the only EU state not to have voted on the treaty.
President Klaus, along with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, have also promised not to sign off on Lisbon unless Ireland overturns its No vote.