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Sarkozy: No "Miracle" in EU Treaty Talks with Irish

After meeting with the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said there was "no miracle solution" to the impasse caused by the Irish rejection of the European Union's Lisbon treaty in June.

Nicolas Sarkozy in front of a French flag

Sarkozy took some heat from the Irish

Sarkozy, speaking at a joint press conference with Cowen, said he respected the vote of the Irish people and denied meddling in Irish affairs.

The French president remained "convinced that with time the European Union would find a way forward."

Cowen said that Ireland was at the start of a process of analysis and consultation and that a way would be found to "resolve the current difficulties" in a manner satisfactory to all 27 member states.

Brian Cowen

Cowen said Ireland needed time to move forward

"We have to see how the concerns of those who voted no may or may not be addressed, he said, adding that he would stay in close contact with the French leader and that they would hold another meeting in September before Cowen reported back to the European Council in October.

"We are not here to find a solution, but to make a statement of solidarity," Cowen said, stressing that time was needed to find the way forward.

The French president said he "respected the outcome of the Irish referendum," but welcomed the fact that the ratification process was continuing in other member states and emphasized his commitment to the treaty.

He said that he trusted Cowen to find a solution to the problem.

Treaty opponents give Sarkozy clear message

After his meeting with Sarkozy at Government Buildings earlier on Monday, opposition Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he had "forcibly put it" to the French leader that "the issue of holding a second referendum was not going down well with the Irish people."

Leader of the Labor Party Eamon Gilmore said he told Sarkozy that the Lisbon Treaty was dead and could not be put back to the Irish people.

"It didn't happen in France and why should it happen in Ireland?" he asked.

Gilmore told the French president that the "current impasse over the rejection of the treaty would not be resolved before next summer's European elections."

Protests in central Dublin marked the visit from Sarkozy, who is acting head of the EU since France took over the presidency on July 1.

Over 200 fishermen protested at Government Buildings after handing out free fish in the center of Dublin.

Fish

Fishermen handed out free fish in an appeal for EU aid

According to spokesman David Kirwan, the fishermen wanted to send "a clear signal to Sarkozy that fishermen were instrumental in securing a no vote in the Lisbon Reform Treaty." Unless fishermen received immediate aid, they would call for a no vote in any re-run of the referendum, he said.

The Irish Farmers' Association President Padraig Walshe led a demonstration against the policies of European Union Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson.

Walshe, who was part of a group who met Sarkozy at the French embassy, said he would warn the French president that if the World Trade Organization deal currently on the table in Geneva went ahead, it would "profoundly damage support in rural Ireland for any future Lisbon referendum."

Some farmers outside Government Buildings had painted their tractors in the colors of the French flag to signal their solidarity with Sarkozy despite their concerns about the WTO talks. One protestor was led away by Irish police after throwing eggs at Sarkozy as he arrived for his meeting with Cowen.

Both sides meet at French embassy

Sarkozy also held round-table talks at the French embassy with groups who oppose and support the Lisbon Treaty.

David Begg, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, who attended the meeting, said that he "wasn't willing to accept the view that because Ireland had voted no, that was the end of it."

The visit was dogged by controversy after Sarkozy privately told members of his Union for a Popular Movement Party (UMP) this week that "the Irish must vote again."

Voters in Ireland rejected the treaty to streamline the EU in a referendum June 12.

Public forum cancelled due to French reservations

The arrangements for the meeting at the embassy had also caused a diplomatic incident after Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore declined an invitation to take part in the meeting at the French embassy. He described the format allowing each participant to make a three-minute presentation to Sarkozy as being "pointless" and showing a degree of "arrogance."

Libertas leader Declan Ganley walks beside his campaign bus in Dublin

Libertas leader Declan Ganley on the campaign trail

Sarkozy's visit, however, was extended at the last minute to accommodate one-to-one meetings with the two main opposition leaders.

Plans to hold a meeting in a public forum were scrapped, reportedly owing to the reservations of French officials, leading one Irish analyst to describe the holding of the meeting at the French embassy as a "Cold War tactic" of meeting "dissidents on home ground."

A representative of Sinn Fein, the only Irish parliamentary party to campaign for a no vote, also took part in the round-table talks. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams emphasized that there would be "no re-run of the referendum."

Declan Ganley, the leader of Libertas, which spearheaded the no campaign in Ireland, also took part in the meeting at the French embassy, but said that there were too many people apologizing for the no vote in attendance.

The treaty requires the approval of all 27 EU member states before it can be ratified.

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