Sarkozy urges Lisbon action

The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty has split opinion in Europe – with France urging further ratifications.

15 June 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy today flies to Prague for urgent talks with central European governments as he prepares to take over the European presidency.

His visit is all the more pressing as European leaders struggle with last week’s Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Ireland's resounding “No” vote in Thursday's referendum has pitched the 27-nation European Union into deep turmoil, threatening to derail the latest effort to streamline decision-making in the enlarged bloc.

Sarkozy will hold talks with the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in Prague, two weeks before France takes over the rotating EU presidency.

On Saturday, he called on EU countries to stay the course and continue ratifying the treaty to avoid a crisis over the Irish 'No'.

Of the four central European countries, the Czech Republic has yet to ratify the treaty while Polish President Lech Kaczynski must still sign the ratification act passed by parliament in April.

"The others must continue ratification... so that the Irish incident does not become a crisis," Sarkozy said.

In Paris, government ministers were talking up Sarkozy's chances of finding a solution to the quandary posed by the Irish verdict.

"You can count on the president not to leave Europe malfunctioning," the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said in an interview Sunday.

He stressed that Paris was counting on a political deal at this week's European Council meeting which would give the French EU presidency "all means possible for implementing essential policies for Europe."

"We have lost a few months in terms of the institutional blueprint," Jouyet added, "but we haven't lost any time as far as our plans (for the presidency) are concerned," pointing to French proposals for lowering VAT on fuel in response to the rising price of oil, which will be discussed at Thursday's European Council meeting.

Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Friday that the Lisbon reform treaty was finished and could not be ratified after Irish voters rejected it in a referendum.

He said: “The Irish 'No' was a victory for liberty and reason over elitist, artificial plans and European bureaucracy.”

Sarkozy is not expected to meet Klaus at Monday's summit, as the Czech head of state is recovering from illness.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has not said whether the Czech Republic will move to ratify the text but he is under pressure from eurosceptics within his party to scrap it.

The Czech Republic will take over the EU's rotating presidency from France in January 2009.

Photo: Midef

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