Sarkozy hails 'courage' of staging second vote on Lisbon
FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy has praised the "courage" of the Irish Government in staging another referendum on the Lisbon Treaty next year.
He also pledged that the legal guarantees provided to Taoiseach Brian Cowen as part of the deal on holding a second referendum would be included in the new EU treaty to allow Croatia to join the EU in 2010. In one of the final acts of the six-month French presidency, Mr Sarkozy told the European Parliament the guarantees would be "no problem".
"So at the first enlargement after all this, we will make these adjustments, and the Irish Government has courageously promised to hold a new referendum of the people before the end of 2009," he said.
Mr Sarkozy made the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty a priority of the French presidency of the EU and personally visited Taoiseach Brian Cowen in Dublin last July in the wake of the 'No' vote. Both leaders have been in continuous contact, with Mr Cowen also paying visits to Mr Sarkozy in Paris.
"And if things happen as I want them to happen, the Lisbon Treaty will become a reality only one year late," said Mr Sarkozy.
However, he made it clear that the Lisbon Treaty could not be implemented unless there was a 'Yes' vote by the Irish electorate in a second referendum. The main groups on the 'No' side, such as Sinn Fein and Libertas, are already gearing up for another campaign against the treaty.
Mr Sarkozy said it had been essential to address the problems of the one member state which had not ratified the Treaty.
"When I suggested that we should consult our Irish friends again, people said I was not being respectful of the Irish, by asking them to vote again,'' he said.
"But today, 25 countries have almost concluded the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, and in the 26th, the Czech Republic, the constitutional court has just indicated that ratification can go ahead."
Mr Sarkozy said the changes needed to address the Irish 'No' vote included the guarantees that there would still be one commissioner per member state under the Lisbon Treaty. This was despite the views of some countries who believed that a smaller EU Commission was needed to be effective.
"But we can only have the Lisbon Treaty if our Irish friends vote 'Yes' and for that to happen, something new has to appear, and that is one commissioner per country," he said.
Mr Sarkozy had to coordinate Europe's response to the financial crisis, and mediate on Europe's behalf in the conflict between Russia and Georgia during his term of EU office. He said yesterday that he thoroughly enjoyed his six months in charge of EU affairs.
"Europe is not the enemy of nations and nations are not the enemy of Europe'' he said.