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EU's Handling Of Ireland's Rejection Of Lisbon Treaty Criticised

by Jason Gorringe,, London

14 November 2008

Vacklav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic stoked up a political controversy on his recent visit to Ireland by suggesting that the European Union (EU) unfairly pressurized the Irish government to ignore the result of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

He also warned against a move towards supranationalism in Europe – worrting that it could impact on freedom and democracy.

"There has been a radical shift from integration to unification, from intergovernmentalism to supranationalism," said Klaus adding: "The European Constitution, now called the Lisbon Treaty, is something which accelerates that shift."

Klaus visited Dublin for discussions with the Irish government between the 10th and 12th of November, although the talks were dominated throughout by the topic of the Lisbon Treaty.

A total of 53.4% voted to reject the treaty and 46.6% voted in favour after a successful campaign by the 'no' camp, which argued that the treaty would mean Ireland losing sovereignty over many aspects of domestic policy, especially taxation. All but 10 constituencies rejected the treaty, with a total of 752,451 voting in favour of Lisbon and 862,415 voting against. Turnout was 53.1%.

However, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin told the parliamentary subcommittee on Ireland's Future in the European Union on Tuesday that he thought Ireland’s treatment by the EU over the treaty rejection had been reasonable.

In his opening statement, Martin said:

"The Taoiseach (Prime Minister Brian Cownen) and I, in our various discussions with other member states, have been shown the greatest respect and understanding."

"There is an appreciation that the result of the referendum reflected serious and genuinely held concerns, and that it has consequences not just for Ireland, but for the EU as a whole."

"There is no question of anybody seeking to pressurise us. However, it is very clear that, with the process of ratification now well advanced, there is also no question of being able to renegotiate the treaty."

"To do so would be to oblige all of those who have already ratified to go back to square one. After the many long years of negotiation, there is simply no appetite for this.”

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