To discuss how to proceed after the Irish rejection of the Libon Treaty, French president Nicolas Sarkozy is starting an official visit to Ireland. During the trip, expected to last less than six hours, he will meet Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen (photo, from lepost.fr).
A second referendum on the EU treaty would have to be held by the Republic of Ireland, said president Sarkozy earlier this month, annoying many Irish leaders.
On 1 July, France took on the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.
Ireland was the only one of 27 EU member states to hold a referendum on the treaty, which is aimed at streamlining EU institutions to improve decision-making in the enlarged bloc.
Last month, EU leaders agreed that after analysing the reasons for the No vote on 12 June, the Irish government would present its ideas on the treaty at the next EU summit, in October.
On Sunday, in an interview with the Spanish daily El Pais, Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister, stressed that the French president was on a mission to listen to Irish views.
‘Time is needed’
“I believe what we shall do on Monday is listen to them, but we’re not visiting them in our capacity as the French (EU) presidency. We’ll listen to the parties, to civil society, to the intellectuals… To say that this can be settled quickly is not true. Time is needed”, he said.
Michael Martin, his Irish counterpart, said that Mr Sarkozy was not visiting to “impose solutions” on Irish voters.
Ireland would make its own decision over the treaty, he stressed before adding that it was too early to say what that would be.
During his visit, Mr Sarkozy (photo) is expected to hold a press conference and also visit his country’s embassy in Dublin.
French president proposed round-table meetings of pro- and anti-treaty parties and groups has upset the leaders of established parties in Ireland, aghast at the prospect of taking a table with the anti-treaty coalition, said the BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Dublin.
The Lisbon Treaty has been ratified by 23 countries, argues Mr Sarkozy, adding that whatever the views of Irish voters, the other countries support for it has to be recognised.