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Ireland treaty relief

October 3, 2009

Leaders across Europe on Saturday welcomed Ireland's resounding backing for the EU's Lisbon Treaty in a key second referendum as a crucial step towards reforming the 27-nation bloc and giving it more global clout.

Supporters of the Lisbon Treaty react outside Dublin Castle
Ireland celebrates after approving the EU treaty in a key second referendumImage: AP

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen led the European-wide chorus of relief after Irish voters strongly endorsed the Lisbon Treaty - more than a year after they rejected the charter, plunging the bloc into crisis.

"The Irish have spoken with a clear voice. It is a good day for Ireland and a good day for Europe," Cowen said in Dublin shortly before the official announcement of the results.

67 percent of Irish voters voted in favor of the treaty, while 33 percent voted against. Turnout in the three-million electorate was 58 percent.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European commission, told reporters in Brussels, "It shows the value of European solidarity. It shows the very positive response that Europe is bringing to the economic and financial crisis."

Vote hailed as pro-Europe choice

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel was among the EU leaders to congratulate IrelandImage: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated the Irish people during her celebrations of German Unity Day, saying, "This is an important step on the path to the Lisbon Treaty."

Her sentiments were shared by Germany's outgoing foreign minister and new opposition leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "The Irish Yes vote brings us a large step closer to the necessary reforms in the EU," he said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, called the vote "an important victory for Ireland and for all of Europe."

He said it was just a matter of time until the EU "finally can push the button for the better European co-operation that the Lisbon Treaty will give us".

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also hailed Ireland's "Yes" vote, saying the bloc could now move forward on key areas like the economy. Spain said it would make the treaty's implementation a priority during its EU presidency in the first half of 2010.

"The Spanish presidency of the European Union will implement this treaty, which symbolizes the new Europe of the 21st century. We are very pleased with this very clear victory of the Yes side. The period of uncertainty is over," secretary of state for the EU, Diego Lopez Garrido, told reporters.

Pressure on Poland and Czech Republic

The Lisbon Treaty is now awaiting ratification from Poland and Czech Republic, the last two member states not to have done so. Irish approval is considered a strong signal to those countries to follow suit, and some EU diplomats expect the Polish parliament to ratify the treaty within the next few days.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus
Czech President Vaclav Klaus insists he will await the decision of the constitutional courtImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

But approval from Prague threatens to be more difficult to extract. After the Irish vote, euroskeptic President Vaclav Klaus repeated he was not ready to sign the treaty until the Czech Constitutional Court assesses a request by a group of senators to consider whether the treaty complies with the country's constitution.

Klaus, a vocal critic of the treaty, said Saturday he "fully respects" the Irish decision, but felt obliged to await the court's decision. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer welcomed the outcome of the Irish vote.

The treaty is designed to speed up and simplify decision-making as well as overhaul institutions in the 27-nation bloc. It has been criticized in many member states, including Germany, where the Constitutional Court forced the parliament to alter legislation relating to the treaty.

Swedish Prime Minister and current President of the European Council Fredrik Reinfeldt said that Ireland's previous referendum 16 months ago, when the country voted against ratification, had led to changes in the treaty. "Europe listened to the concerns of the Irish people and addressed them," he said.

A second "No" vote by the Irish would have effectively killed the treaty, which notably creates a new full-time president and foreign minister for the 27-nation EU, home to some 500 million Europeans.


Editor: Sonia Phalnikar