Saturday 21 April 2018

Diplomat sparks new Lisbon row as EU plans €1.8m blitz

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor and Anne Lucey

THE German ambassador to Ireland sparked a new row over Lisbon last night as the EU planned a €1.8m information blitz.

German Ambassador Christian Pauls warned that the country would "throw away its future" if it voted no a second time -- as the European Commission planned an information campaign to encourage a 'Yes' in the Lisbon II vote.

'No' campaigners claim the money will be spent on EU "propaganda".

News of the latest push for a 'Yes' vote comes as the EU's financial commitment to help Ireland will today be put to the test when Taoiseach Brian Cowen attends a summit of EU leaders focusing on the economic crisis.

EU leaders will put a €5bn economic stimulus package on the table and Mr Cowen will be seeking €100m for an electricity interconnector between Dublin and Wales, along with funding for broadband and farmers.

The costly EU information campaign will include efforts to catch the attention of young people, women and the less well-off, through social networking websites, internet campaigns and cinema adverts.

Several EU commissioners are planning to come to Ireland ahead of the expected referendum date in the autumn.

Speaking in Tralee, Mr Pauls said he had noted that it was rural regions outside of Dublin which had strongly rejected Lisbon.

Ireland could not have an a la carte approach to Europe and simply pick and choose what it liked, he said at the official launch of a cultural partnership between Tralee and Frankfurt-Hochst in Germany.

In 2007, the ambassador landed in hot water over unflattering remarks about Ireland which earned him a rebuke from the Department of Foreign Affairs. He later claimed parts of his speech were mistranslated.

EU commissioners were briefed yesterday on the current public mood ahead of the second referendum.

Budget

Martin Territt, the director of the European Commission Representation in Ireland is understood to have told the commission the EU information campaign will begin soon.

The European Commission has allocated a budget of up to €1.8m for the project and the competitive tenders are currently being evaluated.

The commission believes the feeling from all sides, 'Yes' and 'No' alike, in the first campaign was that the public did not have enough information about the European Union or the Lisbon Treaty, thereby justifying the massive spend.

Libertas says the European Commission is planning how to "force the Irish people to vote 'Yes' to Lisbon using €1.8m of taxpayers' money".

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