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Germany

Merkel Calls for European Unity Ahead of Key Summit

The European Union needs to find a way to move ahead with reform plans without leaving anyone behind, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of a key summit on Thursday, June 19.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Merkel wants to avoid a "period of reflection" after the Irish treaty shock

Addressing the German parliament Thursday, June 19, Merkel stressed the need for urgently pressing ahead with the EU reform treaty. Yet moving ahead doesn't mean leaving others behind, Merkel said hours ahead of a summit where European leaders will discuss how to proceed in light of the Irish "no" vote.

A solution had to be found with the Irish, the chancellor stressed, adding: "I am convinced that we will find this solution."

All the countries in the 27-member bloc need to listen to Ireland's arguments, Merkel, who travels to Brussels later Thursday for the two-day summit, said.

Ratification a necessity

Irish Farmers protest

Irish farmers don't feel like Europe is representing them

"I will press for the ratification process to proceed," Merkel said, calling the passage of the treaty in Britain's upper house Wednesday as "a piece of very important news for Europe."

All countries except for Ireland left ratifying the Lisbon Treaty up to their parliaments. The treaty is meant to streamline the way the EU operates and give it a more united profile in world affairs. Because it needs approval of all members, Ireland's "no" vote has left the process in limbo.

Merkel doesn't want to begin down the road to a "two-speed Europe," in which some countries would continue down a path towards a more integrated Europe while others would be left behind.

"We must ensure that treaties in the European Union are brought forward unanimously. There's no other way," Merkel said.

No reflection necessary, Merkel says

Two Irish women press an interactive sign

Europe has not looked united lately

Merkel seemed worried her colleagues would call for a "period of reflection" as happened when the French and the Dutch rejected the European Constitution in 2005. Merkel told the Bundestag the Treaty of Lisbon was essential for Europe to face the challenges of globalization and that it was important for the bloc to speak with a single voice.

"Europe cannot afford another period of reflection," the chancellor said, adding decisions needed to be made before the European elections in June of 2009.

Ireland under pressure

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen

Cowen's EU colleagues want to know what went wrong

The problem for the EU is that it has no "plan B." The Lisbon Treaty was already the group's back-up plan after the constitution failed to gain enough support.

The EU is now hoping all member states apart from Ireland will ratify it.

European Commission President Jose Barroso told the European Parliament ahead of the summit he expected those countries that haven't ratified the Lisbon treaty yet to continue with their own ratification process.

At the summit, all eyes will be on the newly appointed Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who is to explain the reasons behind his country's "no" vote over dinner in Brussels. It will be a difficult task.

"There is no quick fix, it will not be resolved easily," Cowen warned. "We will not rush into any particular action now. We need to pause and to absorb what has happened - and why - and to consult widely at home and with our European partners.”

Oil, food prices on agenda

Trucks lined up as part of a protest

High fuel prices have enraged truckers

EU leaders also need to come up with a plan on how to deal with rising food and oil prices.

A senior French official said that President Nicolas Sarkozy would reiterate calls for a cut in the value added tax on petrol to help fishermen, farmers and truckers hit by soaring fuel bills.

The French have argued that the EU's insensitivity to concerns about rising prices is one reason the Irish rejected the reform treaty.

Merkel made it clear that she opposes countering rising oil prices by cutting fuel taxes.

"In our view, financial policy intervention, which is being discussed again and again…should be avoided," Merkel said.

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