Constitutionele commissie EP wil dat Ierse zorgen serieus worden genomen (en)

Met dank overgenomen van Europees Parlement (EP) i, gepubliceerd op maandag 23 juni 2008.

Irish concerns should be addressed before deciding upon a way out of the institutional deadlock following Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, said Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs on Monday. In a debate with the Council Presidency on the outcome of the June European Council, the committee debated the reasons for Ireland's referendum vote and possible future options.

Whilst some committee members suggested that national ratifications should continue while awaiting Irish Prime Minister's assessment of the referendum outcome, others cited the "communication gap" between the EU institutions and the public as a key reason for Ireland's rejection of the treaty.

The Council Presidency is "disappointed but recognises the Irish decision", said its current President, Slovenian State Secretary for European Affairs Janez Lenarcic, adding that "we also need to take into account that the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified by 19 countries and ratification procedures continue in other Member States."

Noting that the European Council of 19 and 20 June had decided to tackle the issue again at its October meeting, Mr Lenarcic said he is "confident that in October a way ahead will be agreed."

Need to address Irish concerns while ratification proceeds

Former EP President Enrique Baron Crespo (PES, ES) agreed with the Council Presidency: "all citizens are on equal footing - we must respect the Irish decision and they need to respect the other Member States" that have already ratified the text, he said, expressing support for the continuation of national ratification procedures.

Mr Baron Crespo also noted that the European Council conclusions state that the Czech Republic cannot complete ratification until its Constitutional Court delivers a positive opinion, and asked the Czech government to explain whether this was an attempt to delay ratification. This call was echoed by Panayiotis Demetriou (EPP-ED, CY), who asked "is it a subterfuge?" 

The EU "needs to provide the Irish with equal treatment to that afforded to the French and the Dutch" after they rejected the draft constitution that preceded the treaty, said Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK). Mr Duff advocated addressing Ireland's concerns, and asking it to put a revised document to the vote. But this time, the EU should "make clear to the Irish that there are serious consequences for the Union should the Irish fail to carry agreement on revised package," he warned.

"Crisis of legitimacy"

Gerard Onesta (Greens, FR), spoke about a "lack of confidence of citizens vis-à-vis the European institutions." As a tool to rebuild trust and bridge the communication gap with the people, he proposed holding "a European referendum" on the main institutional reforms included in the Lisbon Treaty. Johannes Voggenhuber (Greens, AT), agreed with his party colleague and said that the Irish rejection "put representative democracy into question," since the crisis of legitimacy also affects national parliaments.

After "three noes to more or less the same text, Europe cannot continue with ratification", said Hanne Dahl (IND/DEM, DK), referring to the 2005 French and Dutch rejection of the constitution. She also agreed that there is a "crisis of confidence" between the public and the EU and stressed the need for the EU to address Irish concerns.

The Danish example

Richard Corbett (PES, UK), proposed that Ireland follow the example of what Denmark had done after rejecting the Maastricht Treaty back in 1992. At that time, the Danish government suggested that the other Member States to continue with ratification, while, after internal consultation, it identified a number of concerns that were eventually met by the rest of the Union. Danes had then voted a second time and finally approved the reforms.

Timothy Kirkhope (EPP-ED, UK), said he was not surprised by the Irish decision. "We have a challenge ahead now, but we had many in the past and will have many in the future," he said. Since current rules provide for unanimity to implement reforms, "we need to use our imagination to seek the way forward," he concluded.

At the end of the debate, the Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed to suspend all discussions on its reports dealing with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty until the Irish government is able to present its assessment of the reasons for the no vote.


In the Chair : Jo Leinen (PES, DE)

Procedure: exchange of views