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Europe

Brussels Gloomy as Irish Say 'No' to the EU Reform Treaty

A feeling of gloom and uncertainty fell on Brussels on Friday after Ireland's 'no' camp emerged victorious in vote over the European Union's new reform treaty.

Graffiti on a wall in Ireland: No to Lisbon

'No' votes piled up on Friday

Irish voters dealt a stunning blow to the European Union's grand reform plans Friday by rejecting a new treaty and plunging the bloc into a new crisis.

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen said there could be "no quick fix" after his country voted down the Lisbon Treaty, which was designed to replace the EU constitution torpedoed by French and Dutch voters three years ago.

"We must not rush to conclusions... The Union has been in this situation before and each time has found an agreed way forward," he said, shortly after figures confirmed the "no" victory with 53.4 percent of votes.

"There is no quick fix," he added.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday invited the bloc's remaining member states to go ahead and ratify the Lisbon Treaty, in spite of its rejection by voters in Ireland.

"The remaining ratification processes should maintain their course," Barroso told reporters in Brussels.

Eight national parliaments still need to ratify it, including those of Britain, the Netherlands and Italy.

"The treaty is alive, and we should now try to find a solution," Barroso said.

MPs watch from Irish pub

Two man cast their votes

Ireland was the only country in the 27-member bloc to hold a referendum

A number of officials decided to follow the vote count on a giant screen at Kitty O'Shea's Irish pub, a popular hang-out next to the commission's headquarters.

"I am very disappointed, especially when you consider all that the EU has done for Ireland," its publican said.

"I think the Irish government should have done more to put its message across," he added.

Elmar Brok and Jo Leinen, two German members of the European Parliament who had taken part in the treaty's negotiations, were among the first to react to the news.

And both of them urged the remaining eight member states to go ahead and ratify the text, in spite of the Irish 'no.'

"This would be in the best interest of the member states and the citizens of the EU," said Brok, a conservative.

Despite the crisis, the treaty should not be shelved, added Leinen, a socialist.

"Eighteen countries, more than two-thirds of all member states, have already ratified the treaty, and the ratification process in the remaining member states should go on without any delay or interruption," Leinen said.

EU treaty take two

The Lisbon Treaty is designed to streamline the running of the 27-member bloc.

It was agreed after years of intense wrangling and was meant to replace the failed EU constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Its rejection by Ireland was expected to seriously damage the prospects of it coming into force in early 2009, as planned.

Member states will have a first opportunity to discuss the results of the referendum during a meeting of foreign ministers scheduled to take place in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday.

The institutional discussions would likely overshadow planned ministerial talks on other important issues such as the deployment of an EU mission in Kosovo, the possible lifting of Cuban sanctions and the difficult situation in Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

"All of the topics on the agenda deserve the ministers' full attention," noted a source from the Slovenian presidency of the EU.

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