Saturday

10th Dec 2022

EU to push back Lisbon treaty solution to the end of the year

  • "It's very sure that we won't set any deadlines," said Mr Jansa (l) (Photo: Slovenian EU Presidency, Thierry Monasse)

The EU is unlikely to agree concrete solutions to the institutional impasse created by the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of the year, the bloc's initial discussion on the issue has shown.

Prior to the top-level meeting in Brussels on Thursday, some member states had been pushing to have Dublin present a plausible exit strategy to the crisis by the next EU leaders' meeting in October.

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But Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin poured cold water on the idea.

"Obviously the Council meeting in October will be an opportunity to make a progress report, but I would not anticipate solutions by October," he said.

"That very much depends on the analysis and the outcome of engagement and contacts between now and then. We will certainly be exploring options and ideas," he added, noting: "We just don't have a ready-made solution."

After hearing a lengthy analysis by Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen explaining what he thought were the reasons for the Irish No vote one week ago, leaders appeared to accept a loosening of the timetable.

"It's very sure that we won't set any deadlines," said Janez Jansa, Slovenian prime minister and current head of the EU.

Referring to legal challenges to the treaty in both the Czech Republic and Germany, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso admitted: "We cannot say exactly when the ratification process will be completed."

But he said that he was "confident" that all member states would continue the process – so far 19 of the 27 have ratified the document – amid speculation that Prague may declare the process dead.

A second Irish vote

French President Nicolas Sarkozy noted that while there may be no set calendar, as "pressure should not be put on a country, everyone knows that there is a deadline and that is the next European elections."

He also implied that the only feasible option for the Irish government is to put the matter to a referendum once more, noting that the main difference between the current situation and when the French and the Dutch rejected the similar-looking EU constitution in 2005 was that "there is today not one head of state or government ready or prepared to renegotiate institutional questions."

"There will be no other convention, no other treaty," said the president.

On Friday, EU leaders are to agree a political statement on the situation expected to say that they respect the outcome of the Irish vote and that time be given to Dublin to find a solution. Whether it will suggest in black and white that ratification should continue is still unclear, due to Czech resistance.

Fuel prices

Member states also had lengthy discussions on the rising food and fuel prices in Europe, with the commission presenting plans to help those most affected by changes.

While stressing that long-term solutions to the problem require a change in the way people use energy, Mr Barroso said that governments were free to undertake certain short-term measures such as helping low income households.

He also announced a new fisheries package, measures for increased transparency in oil stocks and a new fund to help the agricultural sector in developing countries.

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