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Saturday 16 February 2019

New Lisbon vote to be delayed until Irish concerns met

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

NO DECISION can be taken for several months on the timing of a new Lisbon Treaty referendum, European Affairs Minister Dick Roche says.

The minister also says some EU member states are reluctant to concede to the Government's demand that every country retain its European Commissioner, but it is a key issue for Ireland.

Mr Roche has previously stated that a referendum would have to be held if the treaty is to be ratified by this country.

Ahead of this week's EU Summit, Mr Roche told the Irish Independent that the time for deciding on the actual timing of Ireland's ratification won't come until after the entire EU has agreed on a "legally robust mechanism" that will meet the concerns that led to the No vote in last June's referendum.

"It is likely to take months of very detailed discussions before we reach the point," he says.

The minister admits the issue of keeping the permanent European Commissioner is a sticking point, but he believes a deal can be struck.

"We recognise that some member states are reluctant to concede to the Government's demand that every EU state should retain the right to appoint a Commissioner permanently, however, this is a key issue for us," he said.

"The Taoiseach has made it clear that while we respect the views of others, this is a key issue for Ireland and a key concern of the Irish people. Following the very intensive round of discussions we believe that this is an area where agreement can be achieved, increasingly the logic of our position is recognised," he added.

When asked when the Government would have to hold a second referendum to ratify the treaty, the minister explained why it wasn't possible to say at this point in time.

"It is too early to talk about a date for a new referendum. The primary aim for the Government must be to see if the fears and concerns of the Irish people as reflected in the June 12 result can be addressed.

"The Government can only revisit the ratification process if, and only if, that happens. That is the appropriate and logical order in which to deal with the current position," he said.

Mr Roche reiterated Taoiseach Brian Cowen's view that the plan is still a work in progress and no decisions have yet been taken.

"We can only commit to ratification of Lisbon if the concerns -- taxation, social and ethical issues and defence -- of the Irish people are met by means of a legally robust set of mechanisms, and when the issue of the Commission is resolved."

Mr Roche said the Lisbon Treaty itself provides a way for each country to keep its Commissioner.

Trigger

"What is necessary is a commitment to trigger the Lisbon mechanism when Lisbon is ratified by all 27 states to continue the position that every member state will have the right to nominate a Commission member. The Lisbon mechanism can only be operated if all 27 member states ratify," he said.

"One of the ironies of the No vote on June 12 is that by rejecting Lisbon, we locked the EU into the Nice Treaty process that provides for a Commission of less than 27 Commissioners next year, a position than can only be reversed if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by all the member states," he added.

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