17th Jan 2019

Irish PM hails 'successful' EU summit result

  • The Irish text will be attached to an accession treaty for a new member state. (Photo: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic)

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has hailed as "entirely successful" the outcome of an EU summit in which a text designed to make the Lisbon Treaty more palatable to the Irish people was agreed.

Mr Cowen said Ireland had got its two key demands from the meeting - that treaty guarantees on interpretations of the treaty in the areas of tax, neutrality and ethical issues were agreed and that they will eventually be enshrined into EU law.

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"We have agreement that the legally binding guarantees will be incorporated in a protocol in an EU treaty after the entry into force of Lisbon," said the Irish leader who had two special meetings with UK prime minister Gordon Brown to secure the deal.

"This outcome is of huge significance to Ireland and the European Union," he said.

He entered the meeting on Thursday after having written to his counterparts to warn them that he needed to get a watertight legal agreement if he was to secure a Yes vote in the second referendum.

The UK, in particular, had worries that loose wording could have seen domestic debate on the Lisbon Treaty reopened, with the opposition conservatives firmly opposed to the document.

The summit conclusions say that the guarantees are "fully compatible with the Treaty of Lisbon and will not necessitate any ratification of that Treaty."

They also suggest that the text will be attached "in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements" to an EU treaty when member states are next ratifying an accession treaty for a new member state.

Citing the economic recession and climate change as the major problems currently facing the EU, Mr Cowen said that "small countries like Ireland cannot afford to go it alone."

He would not be drawn on the exact date of the referendum saying only that a date would be set "as soon as possible." It is thought it may be held on 2 October.

With his premiership likely to be riding on the referendum after a poor showing for his party in the recent local and European elections, Mr Cowen called for a "mature debate based on truth and fact."

Irish voters rejected the treaty a year ago following a vivid debate between the pro- and anti-treaty camps.

All mainstream parties campaigned in favour of the treaty but they were taken by surprise by the strength of the No movement, which found its voice in Declan Ganley, an articulate business man who claimed the treaty was bad for business and democracy.

The guarantees concern many of the issues raised by Mr Ganley, who has this time round indicated he will not spearhead a No campaign after his attempts to found a pan-European party on the back of his Irish win failed to produced any results at the ballot box last month.

Recent opinion polls suggest that the treaty will be accepted by Irish voters this time round, in part due to the devastating consequences of the economic crisis on the small country, which has made citizens nervous of rocking the EU boat.

However Mr Cowen said there is "no room for complacency" with no campaigners already criticising the agreement.

"'The legally binding guarantees' to meet Irish voters' concerns do not change a jot or tittle of [the] Treaty'" said Anthony Coughlan, a well-known eurosceptic campaigner.

All other member states have completed parliamentary ratification of the treaty. However, a Yes by Ireland would not guarantee that the treaty comes into force. Czech president Vaclav Klaus, fiercely opposed to the treaty, ahead of the summit said the Czech parliament must first ratify the guarantees.

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