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Europe

Second Lisbon Referendum on the Cards for Ireland

The way could be cleared for Ireland to hold a second referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty by October 2009, a draft statement by EU leaders said Thursday.

A cyclist passes by a 'YES' for Lisbon Treaty bus and a 'NO' for Lisbon truck in Dublin

The Irish public were split over the Lisbon Treaty

The statement grants several major concessions to Dublin in an effort to convince Irish voters of the merits of adopting the reforming treaty, which attempts to streamline decision-making within the 27-member bloc.

Irish voters rejected the pact in a referendum held in June, partly out of concerns that their country would lose the right to nominate a commissioner to the EU's executive.

Objection to shrinking commission

Part of the original treaty was designed to reduce the European Commission's size to two-thirds of the currently 27 commissioners from 2014.

But the draft statement says EU leaders agreed on keeping a rule allowing each member state to nominate a member of the commission.

"The European Council agrees that provided the Lisbon Treaty enters into force … the commission shall continue to include one national of each member state," the draft statement said.

"In the light of the above commitments by the European Council … the Irish government is committed to seeking ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the term of the current commission," which finishes in October next year, the statement said.

Irish concerns appeased

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, left, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, right

Irish PM Brian Cowen, left, will detail to the EU how Ireland will approve the treaty

The draft also includes a declaration designed to address a number of additional concerns expressed by the Irish in their ‘no' vote.

These include guarantees that Ireland's traditional policy of neutrality would be maintained and that the Lisbon Treaty does not impinge on Ireland's right to set tax levels.

Irish voters were also concerned the treaty would contravene the country's constitution on issues relating to the right to life, education and family.

Brussels summit

The statement awaits confirmation at a two-day EU summit in Brussels scheduled to begin later Thursday.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is to open the meeting by explaining how his government intended to ratify the treaty, which cannot come into force until it is approved by all 27 member states.

If Ireland approves the treaty through a second referendum in October 2009, reforms could come into force by the end of next year.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin stressed the draft concessions still required approval by all EU member states at the summit.

"Work remains to be completed with our European partners over the coming months and any second referendum is conditional on satisfactory conclusion of that work," Martin said.

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