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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ils veulent ignorer le « non » irlandais, mais...

by Gaël De Santis

They’d like to ignore the Irish ‘no’ but....

Translated Friday 27 June 2008, by Susannah Readett-Bayley

European Council. The Summit of European leaders calls for the ratification process for the Lisbon Treaty to continue.

Brussels, special report.

“European policies are not the source of the problems” resumed Janez Jansa referring to the Irish ‘no’; at the final European Council press conference held last Thursday and Friday in Brussels the prime minister of Slovenia who currently holds the EU presidency continued, “they are part of the solution”. However, discussion among the 27 leaders remained primarily focused on the institutional crisis and the economic crisis. Following Ireland’s ‘no’ vote on the Lisbon Treaty – aimed at improving the running of the EU - the European Council called for ratifications to continue.

Disagreement over VAT on fuel

During the final conference, Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated Gordon Brown’s "political courage" in succeeding to secure the resolution’s adoption by the House of Lords on Wednesday. The Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen is expected to present a report explaining the reasons for Ireland’s ‘no’ at the next Council meeting in October. There is no certainty that this will give rise to solutions to the current crisis. It appears then that the European Council in October will be nothing more than another step in the process. For the moment, 19 out of 27 states have ratified the treaty.

The Czech Republic’s ratification could prove to be tricky. Unlike the Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the president Vaclav Klaus is a notorious eurosceptic. The Senate has demanded clarity from the constitutional court on whether the treaty is compatible with the Constitution. Equally, local elections will take place in the autumn renewing the mandates of around a third of the Czech Chamber of Deputies.

For the moment European leaders have given no indication of what might happen if only 26 out of 27 countries ratify the treaty, especially considering that any renegotiation of the text has been ruled out. Nicolas Sarkozy has hinted that under these conditions the Treaty of Nice – the treaty currently in application – would allow no new entries into the Union without institutional reform taking place first. This would be problematic for Balkan countries like Serbia and Croatia seeking entry.

The French Presidency of the European Union (FPEU) which will begin on 1st July should see the end of the institutional reform process started by Nicolas Sarkozy with his simplified treaty. It is up to France to try to find an end to the crisis. To keep his hand in throughout 2009 Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested a shared presidency between the Czech Republic and Sweden who will hold the Presidency next year.

The second topic of discussion was the rise in fuel and food prices. Angela Merkel, along with certain other heads of State refused Nicolas Sarkozy’s reduction in VAT on oil products. A reduction on consumer taxes can only be the result of a unanimous decision by all 27 States. The French president managed however to get approval for a study by the Commission on the subject, which should not be examined before October.

The ‘Directive of Shame’

The summit’s main decision is Slovakia’s entry into the Eurozone next year. It will be the first Central European State to adopt the shared currency. The issue of migration was on the agenda. The pact on immigration and asylum, presented as a FPEU project reached consensus. However, there was no discussion of angry reactions from Latin-American political leaders to the ‘Directive of Shame’ adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The summit was equally the occasion to take some diplomatic decisions. The 27 countries sent a warning to Zimbabwe as a second round of presidential elections approaches on 27th June. Diplomatic sanctions on Cuba were lifted, and measures taken on the Caribbean island since Raul Castro took over were applauded.

A directive determining the European Union working week to be 65 hours was also adopted. Once again then, the complete opposite of anything resembling a social Europe, something not even brought up by the 27 countries.

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