Tuesday 21 January 2020

Treaty change talk ebbs and flows after Van Rompuy 'trick'

Thomas Molloy

THE probability of yet another referendum on Europe ebbed and flowed yesterday as one of Europe's most senior officials suggested that this week's summit could reach an agreement without requiring a vote here -- only to see the plan shot down by France and Germany by nightfall.

The day began well for Enda Kenny's Government, which fears weary voters might once again vote against a treaty change, as European Council president Herman Van Rompuy said Europe's leaders should agree to make minor changes to Europe's treaties at the two-day summit.

Under European Union rules, a unanimous agreement can be made without consulting individual parliaments or holding referendums.

Later, in a letter written by France and Germany, it became clear that the two most powerful leaders in the eurozone were unhappy with Mr Van Rompuy's proposal. One German official dismissed Mr Van Rompuy's idea as a "trick".

Stock markets and the euro fell as the extent of the differences became apparent and pessimistic comments from EU paymaster Germany dampened hopes of an agreement.

New details about a simmering crisis within Europe's banks did little to reassure the investors who had been quietly confident earlier in the week that the two-day summit would end successfully.


In the Dail, Mr Kenny declined to say whether he would support a unanimous vote.

Later, he flew to the port of Marseille in France for a meeting of the the Congress of the European People's Party which is an umbrella group in the European parliament for centre right parties including FG.

The letter by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also attended the meeting, outlined a detailed their plan to amend the EU treaty to anchor stricter budget discipline in the euro area.

The French finance minister said, meanwhile, that the leaders of France and Germany would not leave the summit until a "powerful" deal was reached to restore market trust and prevent the sovereign debt crisis spiralling out of control.

Irish government sources suggested that the summit might extend well into Saturday. But while Paris voiced determination, a senior German official gave a downbeat assessment of prospects for an agreement in an apparent effort to jolt partners into accepting Berlin's terms and respecting its red lines.

"I have to say today, on Wednesday, that I am more pessimistic than last week about reaching an overall deal... A lot of protagonists still have not understood how serious the situation is," an official told a pre-summit briefing.

Irish Independent

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