Juncker rules out Lisbon treaty before 2010
The European Union's Lisbon Treaty will not enter into force before the European Parliament elections in June 2009, as was initially hoped, and is unlikely to do so before 1 January 2010 either, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said in Brussels on Wednesday (17 September).
"I don't think that the treaty will be in place in June , when the next European elections will take place," Mr Juncker, who is also the president of the eurogroup - gathering the finance ministers of the eurozone - said at a conference organised by the Brussels-based European Policy Centre (EPC).
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In order for the document to be in place by June 2009, it would have to be ratified by all 27 EU member states by February - something which according to Luxembourg's premier is "not realistic."
"It's not possible to have this treaty enter into force before the year 2010," he stressed.
Mr Juncker is the first high-level politician to publicly state the Lisbon treaty may be impossible to adopt next year.
Originally, the document - aimed to replace the failed European Constitution and to provide for a better and more efficient functioning of the EU - was planned to enter into force in January 2009.
But Irish citizens voted No in a referendum on the treaty in June, casting a doubt over the possibility to reach the goal.
EU leaders will be expecting to hear from Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen on the issue at a summit meeting in October, with the EU insisting ratification of the document should continue in other member states, and a second referendum in Ireland seen by some as a possibility to bypass the June No vote.
Mr Juncker, however, said that a possible revote in Ireland should not take place in the immediate future.
"Given the economic crisis we're living in, given the confidence that's lacking, given that governments are increasingly unpopular all over Europe, organising a referendum around a European treaty is a dangerous road to take," he said.
"If I was the Irish Prime Minister, I wouldn't go for a referendum in the next few months."
If the Lisbon treaty does not come into force in 2009, that will affect the composition of both the European Parliament and the European Commission next year, which would have to be conducted under the EU's current set of rules, the Nice treaty.
It would mean that the number of seats in the European Parliament would shrink from the current 785 to 736 – instead of 751, as foreseen in the Lisbon treaty.
But the number of commissioners in the next commission - to be nominated by November 2009 - would also be reduced, as under Nice, their number should be "less than the number of member states."
A previous version of this article stated that if the European Parliament elections in 2009 were conducted under the Nice treaty, there would be 785 seats in the next parliament. In fact, the number of seats would be 736. This has now been corrected.