Vondra, Martin discuss future of Lisbon treaty

Photo: European Commission

Slowly but surely a schedule on the future of the Lisbon treaty – the document aimed at reforming the running of the European Union – is being hammered out. On Sunday, on behalf of the Czech EU presidency Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra met for talks in Ireland with Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin. Last June Irish voters rejected the treaty, now things are gearing up for a possible second referendum in late 2009.

Neither Ireland, nor the Czech Republic, have yet ratified the Lisbon treaty, but as things stand, both are inching closer to a final decision: the Czech Republic in the lower house this week, and Ireland in a second referendum possibly as early as this autumn. On Sunday, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin made clear after meeting with Mr Vondra that his government was committed to the treaty, not least because of guarantees promised by the EU. Last December the European Union pledged Ireland “sovereignty guarantees” such as the country retaining the right to decide on issues including abortion and euthanasia. The final wording has yet to be determined; still, Irish officials now seem confident the time is almost ripe for a second vote. Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin:

“The government is in favour of passing the Lisbon treaty and has been obviously, and indeed many of the members of parliament are. But what we are really about, is that we listened to the vote of the people last year, we engaged in significant research to understand why people voted ‘No’ and voted ‘Yes’. We’ve isolated those issues and sought to address them in the form of guarantees - the decision taken by our European colleagues to have one commissioner per member state. So our position would then be to say to the Irish people that our EU colleagues have responded to the issues that they raised in the last referendum. Surely it is now reasonable that we should not halt or delay the reforms that are necessary to the institutions of Europe, to enable Europe to be an effective voice in world affairs.”

Photo: European Commission
It has now been suggested that a second Irish referendum could be held in October. Several other EU countries also have to complete ratification in the meantime: Germany (where the document is before the constitutional court) Poland (where it remains to be signed by the president) and the Czech Republic (where the Chamber of Deputies has yet to vote). In the Czech Republic the ratification process is set to resume this week. Even so Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra on Sunday was careful to stress that neither Ireland nor the Czech Republic should be “pressured” into passing the document quickly. The Czech deputy prime minister in Ireland:

“I certainly informed Minister Martin also about where we stand. The first committee of the lower house approved the Lisbon treaty on Friday morning and we expect the vote in the lower house to take place [this week]. So we are moving ahead. We are moving ahead and I think it’s in certain harmony. We are all working hard.”

The road to ratifying the Lisbon treaty has been a long process, with plenty of hurdles, not unlike the failed EU constitution before it. But now there are indications some of the previous opposition to it is fading. In Ireland alone, a new poll released on Monday suggests that 51 percent would now vote in favour – boosting proponents’ hope that the treaty could be approved before the year is out.