Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

Ireland set for second Lisbon referendum

Ireland looks set to hold a second referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty next year, having almost secured a series of concessions by the other EU states on its key demands.

A document EU leaders are expected to agree on Friday (12 December) reads: "The Irish government is committed to seeking ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the term of the current [European] Commission," in November 2009.

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  • Dublin will likely obtain only "a declaration of principle" from the EU member states on its key demands (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

In exchange, EU leaders will agree that each member country will keep one commissioner in the next European Commission if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.

In its current form, the Lisbon Treaty foresees a reduction of the commission whereby as of 2014 just two-thirds of the member states would have a commissioner at any one time. The reduction can be changed by the EU countries however, if they agree to such a move unanimously.

Dublin has said that according to their research into why their citizens voted No, keeping their commissioner had been a key concern, together with holding on to its traditional neutrality. Ireland has also sought assurances that the EU would not impose rules concerning taxation or "ethical issues", such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriages.

Ireland has secured concessions on these points as well.

"The European Council [EU member states] has carefully noted the other concerns of the Irish people presented by the Taoiseach as set out in the statement annexed relating to taxation policy, family, social and ethical issues, and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) with regard to Ireland's traditional policy of neutrality," reads the document.

"The European Council agrees that these concerns shall be addressed to the mutual satisfaction of Ireland and the other member states by way of the necessary legal guarantees," it continues.

The UK in particular has expressed some reserves to the declaration, however, insisting that it should be clear guarantees given to Ireland would not change the Lisbon Treaty in any way.

But speaking to journalists on Thursday night (11 December), Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin remained optimistic that all remaining issues would be solved by Friday.

"We are hopeful to get an agreement [on the document] tomorrow," he said.

At this stage, Dublin will obtain only "a declaration of principle" from the EU member states on its key demands, with the proper "legal guarantees" coming later on.

"We will be working on the nature of these legal guarantees" in the coming months, Mr Martin said.

He added that if Dublin obtained the guarantees, "We will be prepared to put this to the electorate," meaning a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The Irish first rejected the text on 12 June by a vote of 53.4 to 46.6 percent.

An Irish Times poll last month showed that given such assurances, voters would approve the treaty in a second referendum, however, with 43 percent of respondents saying they would now vote Yes, 39 percent No and 18 percent having no opinion.

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