Sarkozy says Ireland will have to vote again
By Honor Mahony
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that Ireland will have to vote once more on the EU treaty, in a move bound to ruffle feathers in Dublin, which has yet to say publicly how it plans to react to last month's treaty rejection.
According to a report in the Irish Times, Mr Sarkozy told a meeting of deputies from his UMP party in Paris on Tuesday (15 July): "The Irish will have to vote again."
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The phrase was repeated to journalists by several deputies leaving the meeting.
The remark comes ahead of Mr Sarkozy's visit to Ireland on Monday (21 July) to discuss Ireland's options with Prime Minister Brian Cowen.
Speculation has been high about the political room for manuoeuvre open to Mr Cowen since Irish voters rejected the treaty on 12 June. Most analysts suggest that Dublin will have to opt for a second vote with France and Germany, in particular, keen to get the document put in place.
But this is the first time that this line of thought has been so directly connected to the Elysee Palace, which is currently also running the EU as presidency country until the end of the year.
Reacting to the comments - which were downplayed but not denied by the French government - Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin said that Mr Sarkozy will listen but not "impose a solution" during the planned five-hour talks next week.
He stressed that Ireland would take its own decision on the matter but it was too early to speculate on what this would be, reports state broadcaster RTE.
Mr Sarkozy's comments are set to raise the political stakes at next week's Dublin meeting, parts of which are also to be attended by representatives from the pro- and anti-treaty camps.
So far, Mr Cowen has refused to speculate on what his political options are. Instead, he has said he will come with further analysis of the situation at an October meeting of EU leaders.
But he is bound to be feeling the pressure, as 23 of the 27 member states have now ratified the treaty, which needs to be passed by all countries before it can go into force.
Adding to his discomfort, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the Italian parliament on Tuesday:"There has only been one No to the ratification of the treaty, and I do not expect any more."
Bloomberg reports him as saying that Polish President Lech Kaczynski had told him his country would not block treaty ratification. Mr Barroso also said the Czech Republic would not pose a problem.
Meanwhile, an article in French daily Le Monde on Tuesday suggests that as a sop to Ireland, all member states in the future will continue to have a permanent EU commissioner - instead of the reduced commission planned under the Lisbon Treaty.
This, as well as reassurances that abortion, taxation and neutrality issues will not be affected could be debated as part of an Ireland package at the October summit and adopted by EU leaders in December paving the way for a possible second Irish vote next year.