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EU Leaders Discuss Future After Irish Treaty Rejection

By Lisa Bryant
19 June 2008

European leaders are gathered for a two-day summit in Brussels to search for a way forward for the European Union after Irish voters rejected the EU treaty in a referendum last week. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports it is unlikely a breakthrough will be achieved during the talks.

President Jose Manuel Barroso listen to questions from journalists during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, 19 Jun 2008
At a news conference with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso dismissed chances the 27 European Union leaders gathered in Brussels will reach any kind of quick solution to the crisis facing the bloc after Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

"We agreed that the decision of the Irish people must be respected," said Barroso. "We equally agreed that the right of other member states to reach their own position on the treaty should also be respected. At this evening's dinner of the European Council the [Irish prime minister] will share his analysis of the results of the referendum. I fully agree with his view that the vote was not against Europe."

Nineteen European Union countries have approved the treaty, with the British parliament giving it the green light Wednesday. Ireland, with a population that constitutes less than two-tenths of one percent of the entire EU population, is the only member holding a referendum on the treaty and the only country to have rejected it.

A number of member states are pushing for the other EU countries to vote on the treaty. That may increase pressure for Ireland to hold another referendum on the document although Irish voters could vote "no" once again.

Barroso told reporters he expected more discussion on the future of the European Union and its treaty at another summit this October.

Prime Minister Cowen said Ireland would begin talks with fellow EU members, agreeing that a quick fix during this summit was not in the cards.

"It is far too early yet for anyone to put forward proposals," he said. "I fully accept that we will need to work intensively in the coming months to identify what possible solutions may be available to us."

Ireland's rejection of the treaty is particularly a blow to France, which takes over the rotating EU presidency next month. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has a number of ambitions plans, including a new European-Mediterranean partnership, and aligning the bloc more closely in matters of immigration, defense and taxes. Those plans may now face a setback.

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