Page last updated at 22:15 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 23:15 UK

EU vows to pursue Lisbon treaty

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin outside 10 Downing Street, 6 June
Micheal Martin said the Irish people's decision must be respected

EU foreign ministers have agreed to keep the Lisbon reform treaty alive despite its rejection by Irish voters.

The ministers said those EU members who have not yet ratified the treaty should carry on and do so.

The ministers have been meeting in Luxembourg ahead of a two-day summit in Brussels, starting on Thursday, that is expected to chart the way ahead.

The treaty cannot be implemented unless approved by all 27 EU states. Only the Irish Republic has held a referendum.

The Lisbon treaty is meant to streamline the workings of the enlarged EU and give it a stronger voice in the world.

French and Dutch voters rejected a previous - more comprehensive - draft European constitution in 2005.

'No quick fix'

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin has said it is "far too early" to seek a solution to the Irish rejection of a European Union reform treaty.

Speaking in Luxembourg, Mr Martin told reporters: "The people's decision has to be respected and we have to chart a way through... It is far too early for proffering any solutions or proposals.

Mark Mardell
No-one senior is talking about leaving Ireland out in the cold, but some MEPs are in favour of this 'coalition of the willing'
The BBC's Mark Mardell

"There are no quick fix solutions."

But it is now up to the Irish Taoiseach - or Prime Minister - Brian Cowen to find a way forward with the other EU leaders at their Brussels summit, says the BBC's European affairs correspondent Oana Lungescu.

Leaders want to know what went wrong, what changes could be made to accommodate the disparate concerns of Irish voters and how soon a second vote may be possible, if at all, she says.

The most likely scenario, our correspondent suggests, is a declaration assuring the Irish that the treaty will not affect their policies on abortion, taxation and neutrality.

But one minister told the BBC that there may not be any concrete proposals until the next EU summit in October, by which time it would be clear how many other countries have ratified the treaty and on what basis Ireland could vote again, adds our correspondent.

The treaty should be ditched, it is a terrible document and the existing system, even with the new members, works.
Brian, Bordeaux

Most EU leaders have offered broad support for the treaty but have urged caution against immediate action to save it outright.

"It is time for a little bit of thinking and analysis," said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of June.

"It would be risky to say we are going to bring the treaty back to life when we are facing a blockade."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk in the Polish city of Gdansk, said: "The EU needs the Lisbon treaty to be able to act and for future enlargements," she said.

Creates post of an EU president, elected for two-and-a-half years, rather than current six-month rotating presidency
A new high representative for foreign policy, to boost EU's external voice - a merger of the existing two foreign policy posts
Commissioners from two-thirds of member states - no longer from each state - and rotated among member states to serve five-year terms
More decision-making by qualified majority voting, reducing national vetoes, but new voting system only takes effect in 2014
Enhanced roles for European Parliament and national parliaments

But the Czechs have cast doubt on whether the treaty project should be continued.

"The discussion here is whether in case of the Irish No it is even possible and legitimate to continue ratification," Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said after talks in Prague with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Czech Republic is one of nine countries who have not ratified the treaty.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made it clear on Monday that he intended to press ahead with the ratification process, but stressed that the treaty could not come into force until all 27 members sign.

He has been under pressure to stop the treaty from going through the last stage of ratification on Wednesday.

The Lisbon treaty provides for a streamlining of the European Commission, the removal of the national veto in more policy areas, a new president of the European Council and a strengthened foreign affairs post. It is due to come into force on 1 January 2009.

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