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Europe

Fading Hopes of Rapid Solution to Irish No-Vote

Ireland has dashed EU hopes of a quick solution to the bloc's latest institutional crisis by saying it was unlikely to come up with a solution at the next summit in October.

Brian Cowen and Jose Manuel Barroso

Cowen and Barroso are set to continue talks in October

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin on Thursday, June 19, said his government needed "time and space" to analyze the results of last week's referendum.

"I don't think we will have any solutions on the table in October," said Martin.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering had been among those calling for a rapid solution to the crisis at the start of a two-day EU summit in Brussels.

"We both agreed that the next meeting of the European Council (of national leaders) in October will be an appropriate occasion for further discussion on this matter," Barroso said after holding crisis talks with Irish premier Brian Cowen ahead of the meeting. But he also warned that adapting the treaty would be "extremely difficult."

The Lisbon Treaty, which replaces the doomed Nice Treaty and was only approved by EU leaders last December after years of wrangling, is designed to improve the decision-making process of an institution that now has 27 member states. It also gives the European Parliament a greater say.

Will Europe be paralyzed again?

Germany's Hans Gert Poettering

The European Parliament President wanted a rapid solution

Urging Cowen to come up with solutions and calling on all sides to show "understanding and flexibility", Poettering warned that, with the possible exception of Croatia, the EU would not be able to accommodate more countries until the new treaty came into effect.

France, which takes over the rotating presidency of the EU from Slovenia on July 1, is also among those nations particularly keen to see a rapid resolution to the problem. Its president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was reported as saying ahead of his arrival in Brussels that he would ask Ireland to hold a second referendum on the treaty.

"We will not touch the Lisbon treaty, because if we do we will have to start from zero," one advisor to the French government said.

As well enjoying backing from the German government, France has the support of Denmark, with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen calling on the treaty to come into force by April 2009, so as to allow the next European Parliament to be elected in June according to the new rules.

Czech Republic is also resisting quick fixes

A member of the NO campaign in The Lisbon Treaty Referendum celebrates the official result

No one knows quite how to respond to the Irish no-vote

Among those who oppose talk of an Irish "road map" solution being submitted at the EU's next summit on October 15-16 is the Czech Republic, where the EU treaty has been placed under review by its constitutional court.

"Don't put any pressure on anybody," Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said.

"We don't need a long reflection period, but we won't fix the problem during this meeting," acknowledged Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa at the start of the bloc's regular summer meeting.

Overshadowing other key matters

Portuguese Prime Minister and EU President, Jos- Súcrates, together with Portuguese Foreign Afffairs Minister, Luis Amado, German Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and German Foreign Affairs Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at the signing ceremony of the Treaty of Lisbon at the Jeronimos Monastery, in Lisbon, Portugal, 13 December 2007.

Back in December, EU leaders thought they'd made a breakthrough

The institutional crisis overshadowed efforts by EU leaders to address pressing matters, such as surging oil and food prices.

Jansa said he shared citizens' concerns that the EU should not re-enter a long period of institutional navel-gazing, saying the summit's agenda had not changed as a result of the Irish no.

"That is why I did not change the agenda, so we will deal heavily with soaring oil and food prices and set some short, medium and long-term goals," Jansa said.

However, concrete answers to these problems also looked remote, President Nicolas Sarkozy's call for fuel tax to be capped was dismissed by the leaders of Germany, Sweden, Denmark, as well as the EU's energy commissioner, ahead of the summit.

This was the first time that EU leaders met to discuss the fallout caused by the June 12 referendum, in which a majority of Irish voters said no to the Lisbon Treaty.

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