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Europe

France Sees Irish No-Vote As Wake-Up Call

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called Ireland's "no" to the EU's Lisbon Treaty a call to change the way Europe was being constructed. But he has also urged other states to continue the ratification process.

Anti Lisbon Graffiti

What does the Irish "no" really mean?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called Ireland's "no" to the EU's Lisbon treaty a call to change the way Europe was being constructed. But he has also urged other states to continue the ratification process.

"Many Europeans do not understand how we are constructing Europe. We must therefore change the way we do it," Sarkozy told journalists in Paris after meeting US President George W Bush.

The Irish rejection of the treaty was "an appeal to do more, to do it better," he said.

Non, mais oui

Bush and Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy made his comments after meeting the US president

But Sarkozy, whose country is taking over the rotating presidency in July, stressed that no one had the right to sabotage the European project. One of the treaty's aims is to streamline decision-making processes in the enlarged and more unwieldy 27-member bloc.

He also admitted Saturday, June 14, that the no-vote would "not simplify the task of the French (EU) presidency."

And Sarkozy reiterated his call to other countries to continue ratifying the treaty in order to stop the "Irish incident becoming a crisis." Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had already issued a joint statement on Friday to this end.

Meanwhile, the Irish state minister responsible for integration, Conor Lenihan, said it was unlikely that the country would stage another referendum on the European Union reform treaty in the wake of its rejection by voters this week.

On the morning news show of the national broadcaster RTE, Lenihan said he could not rule out the possibility of a new vote, but he then cautioned there was a risk of even more damage being done if the treaty is put up for a second vote.

If at first you don't succeed

Brian Cowen

Irish prime minister has not ruled out a second vote

Lenihan warned that Ireland is now "extremely isolated" in Europe as the only EU member to has rejected the treaty. His comments came as Irish politicians -- both those who favored and opposed the treaty -- took stock of the referendum result in which the treaty was rejected by a margin of 110,000 votes.

Declan Ganley, president of the Libertas group that led the "no" campaign, said he was horrified that the possibility of another referendum was even being raised.

On Friday evening, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the government accepted and respected the verdict of voters, but he declined to rule out the possibility of another vote.

Cowen will be meeting his colleagues at the EU summit in Brussels next week as European leaders ponder what to do next in the wake of the Irish voters' rejection of the treaty.

Adapting the EU

The Lisbon Treaty is designed to replace the failed Treaty of Nice, which Ireland only approved in 2002 after it was put to the people for a second time following a no-vote a year earlier. The Nice treaty was subsequently torpedoed by France and the Netherlands.

Like the rejected constitution, the Lisbon Treaty proposes a European foreign policy supremo and a permanent president to replace the six-month rotation system.

Aimed at preventing decision-making gridlock in the expanding organization, the charter cuts the size of the European Parliament and the number of EU decisions which require unanimous support, thus reducing national vetoes.

It also includes a European charter of fundamental human and legal rights, which Britain and Poland have refused to make binding.

However it drops all references to an EU flag or anthem which had fanned euroskeptic fears of another step towards a federal Europe, and no longer cites unbridled competition as a goal for the bloc.

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