Ireland to work with EU lawyers on Lisbon opt-outs
Irish Taoisach Brian Cowen said his government is consulting with EU council legal services on drafting possible "opt-outs" to the Lisbon treaty, speaking after an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (17 October).
"We are prepared to go into that process in good faith," he said, the Irish Times reports, with the structure of the European Commission, EU military integration, taxation and civil rights the likely areas of concern.
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The Irish leader also underlined his personal support for the Lisbon document and used Iceland's financial meltdown to show the benefits of EU and eurozone membership.
"There is a huge body of opinion - not shared by the Irish people as things stand - that sees the need for stronger institutions, for better decision-making processes, for more effective decision-making to make sure we can deal with challenges that transcend national boundaries," Mr Cowen said.
"I wouldn't like to think what the situation would be if we ended up like them [Iceland] with our own currency," he added. "The access to the resources of the ECB [European Central Bank] far outweighs the resources of the Irish central bank or Iceland's central bank."
Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty in a referendum in June, causing a headache for the country's pro-European Fianna Fail government, with 22 other EU states having already completed ratification.
The Irish leader on the first day of the EU summit pledged to come up with a road map for getting out of the situation in time for the EU summit in December.
But any future solution is unlikely to be in place in time for the June 2009 European elections, in a situation that will see 12 EU states lose 15 MEPs between them in order to comply with exisiting Nice treaty rules.
A debate in Ireland's upper house - the Seanad - on Thursday saw senator Eugene Regan, a lawyer and a member of the equally pro-European Fine Gael opposition party, suggest the EU runs the elections on Lisbon rules anyway.
"I don't believe any constitutional issue arises here. I do think it is a problem that we have created," he said.