June 14, 2008

Berlin, Paris Urge EU States to Ratify Lisbon Treaty Despite Irish “No” Vote

Text of report by independent German news agency ddp

Berlin / Dublin (ddp) - For the present, the EU Reform Treaty has come to grief on the rocks of the Irish "no" vote. In a referendum, 53.4 per cent of the votes were cast against the Lisbon Treaty, intended to make the European Union fit for the 21st century. This means that the EU will not as planned acquire a president and a foreign minister from 2009, or endow its members for the first time with the right to depart the Union. Ratification by all 27 of the EU member states is needed to enable the Lisbon Treaty to come into force.

On Friday [13 June] evening, however, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his confidence that, even after the negative outcome of the referendum, the Reform Treaty still has a future. "The treaty is not dead, it is alive," said Barroso. The incumbent EU Council President and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa pointed out that the treaty had already been ratified by two thirds of the EU's member states.

This was the background against which Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined in calling for the ratification process still uncompleted in eight EU countries to be continued. Their appeal received the support of the Social Democratic Party of Germany [SPD], the Free Democratic Party [FDP], and the Greens. Only the Left Party, which has solidly rejected the EU Treaty in the Bundestag, felt its objections had been vindicated, and called for the treaty to be renegotiated.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) spoke of a "severe setback" for Europe, in the process underlining the Federal Government's goal of bringing the Lisbon Treaty into force. "To this end, the ratification process must go on," he said. SPD leader Kurt Beck reckoned that this would represent an "important political signal" that the desire of the great majority of member states for a strong EU remained unchanged. A similar view was also voiced by Greens chief Reinhard Buetikofer.

Describing the Irish "no" vote as "regrettable," FDP leader Guido Westerwelle said that "countries are thoroughly entitled not to take part in the further process of European integration." Nevertheless, Europe should continue its coalescence; for "the rest of Europe is also thoroughly entitled to continue its integration without these countries."

Left Party chief Lothar Bisky called for another "pause for thought" in Europe. The 27 heads of state and government leaders should ponder how the citizens' demand for a change in EU policies, in favour of a social, civil, and democratic Europe, "can at last be rooted in a treaty," he said.

With an eye to the left Party, CSU [Christian Social Union] chairman Erwin Huber warned that the failed referendum must not be exploited for party-political purposes. "Anyone now mischievously fomenting anti-European mindsets is trampling the European idea underfoot," he asserted.

SPD European parliamentarian Jo Leinen, the chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs, believes that Europe has yet again plunged into a "serious crisis" through the blockage of the Reform Treaty. Criticizing the vote, Leinen stated that "the axe has been taken to the core of the European idea." It was absolutely essential for next week's EU summit to find an answer to this, he added.

(Further sources: Steinmeier in Beijing; Leinen in ddp interview; Barroso in Brussels; Huber in Munich; all others in statements)

Originally published by ddp news agency, Berlin, in German 1746 13 Jun 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring European. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.