Lisbon Treaty: MEPs debate Irish rejection and way forward

Date

07 Oct 2008

Sections

EU Priorities 2020

The EU must cooperate with the Irish government to address the people's concerns and find a suitable way forward for institutional reform. So said MEPs in a lively Constitutional Affairs Committee debate with Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin on Monday, on the reasons for Ireland's referendum rejection of the draft Lisbon reform treaty.

"By December, we expect to be able to identify more precisely the issues that need to be addressed and to outline the necessary steps to achieve our objective of continued full engagement in the Union", said Mr Martin in his introduction.

Inigo Mendez de Vigo (EPP-ED, ES) and Richard Corbett (PES, UK), constitutional affairs coordinators for their respective groups, agreed that the Union has to work closely together with the Irish government to find a way forward. Mr Mendez de Vigo said: "It is not an Irish problem, it is an EU problem", said Mr Mendez de Vigo. Richard Corbett (PES, UK) added the EU "has to listen to Irish concerns and help find a solution".

"All the indications are that the Irish people want their positive approach to the EU to continue", said Mr Martin, reporting on the result of an independent survey on the reasons for the referendum outcome. According to this study, the main reason for the No vote was a lack of understanding or knowledge of the proposed reforms, and more generally of the EU.

Too soon to talk of another vote, or of US funding of the No campaign
Committee members asked the Irish Minister about a possible timetable for a second vote on the Lisbon treaty and about rumours of US funding for the No campaign in the run-up to the referendum.
 
Jean Luc Dehanne (EPP-ED, BE), Enrique Baron Crespo (PES, ES), and Johannes Voggenhuber (Greens/EFA, AT), asked Mr Martin about the alleged use, widely reported by the press, of US funds for the No campaign. Mr Martin replied that he had no direct evidence and would wait for the independent commission, set up after the allegations, to disclose its findings.

On a possible timetable for pursuing reform, Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK) asked: "Is the parliamentary way still open?" for ratification, and Carlos Carnero Gonzales (PES, ES) asked "Is it possible to have Irish people's voice heard before next EP elections?"

The Irish Minister replied that before proposing further action, there must be enough time for a domestic debate on the consequences of the referendum, both for Ireland and the Union as a whole.

Survey results
As reasons for the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the above survey cites the "lack of information", chosen by 42% of those interviewed, and the "lack of understanding", at 46%, as two key causes. In addition, the research identified issues such as the corporate tax base, workers' rights, neutrality and abortion as concerns for Irish people, noted Mr Martin.

IND/DEM group chair Kathy Sinnot (IE), felt that the main reason for rejecting the draft treaty had been the citizens' feeling that they were losing democratic control of the decision-taking process.
 
Mr Martin pointed out that 70% of the Irish agree that EU membership is a "good thing", whereas only 8% disagree. The majority of "No" voters are nonetheless still in favour of Ireland being in the EU, he noted.

Solution to be proposed at December EU Summit
The Irish government has set up a parliamentary committee to conduct a national debate on the referendum results and their consequences for Ireland and for the Union. It is due to conclude its work before the end of November, so as to allow Ireland to report to the European Council at its December meeting.

In the chair : Jo LEINEN (PES, DE)
Committee on Constitutional Affairs
Procedure: exchange of views

Contact
Federico DE GIROLAMO
Press Service
Tel: (32-2) 28 31389 (BXL)
Mobile:  (32) 0498.983.591
Email: constit-press@europarl.europa.eu
REF.: 20081006IPR38788

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