Irish MPs visit Prague

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When the Irish electorate voted No in a referendum on ratification of the Nice treaty last year it looked like European Union enlargement, which the treaty paves the way for, could be stalled. Ireland is expected to hold another referendum on the Nice treaty later in the year - something the whole of Europe - both inside and outside the EU - will be watching closely. A delegation from the Irish Joint Committee on European Affairs visited Prague earlier in the week. Ian Willoughby asked it's chairman Bernard Durkan why they had come to the Czech capital at this time.

"We found it necessary to visit a number of the applicant countries to help them understand the situation that arose in Ireland and to hopefully lay the groundwork for a resolution to the problem that we have in regard to the ratification."

How do you think that will turn out now?

"That remains to be seen. We still have to identify the precise process back home - whether it's going to be by way of modification of some elements of the treaty or by way of modification a constitutional amendment once again. One thing however is certain - obviously when the referendum was defeated we must now look at the issues again and decide how best to resolve them."

You've been in Prague for two days - how well do you think the Czech Republic is prepared for EU membership?

"I've been here once or twice before and I have to say that I was impressed on the first occasion and I have been even more impressed on every subsequent visit. I think that if the people throughout the EU recognised the tremendous work that the Czech Republic has done since getting self-government...they've done tremendous work in a short space of time. They've restored the momentum that the Czech people had back in the 1920s when Czechoslovakia was a leading industrial nation, one of the wealthiest nations in the world at the time. I think I've gone well down towards that road again. I think they'll be excellent members of the European Union and I think that it's in the interest of Ireland and the Czech Republic that they gain accession as soon as possible."

And when you come to visit a city like Prague which is so beautiful, does it feel like work?

"Well, unfortunately we get a short time to do the job that we have to do and we have to work whether we like it or not. But it's certainly a lovely environment within which to work and it makes the work seem all that much lighter."