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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Irish voters swing behind Nice Treaty
Progressive Democrat campaign poster
All main parties are calling for Yes vote
A new opinion poll in Ireland suggests that support for the Nice Treaty on EU enlargement has been rapidly increasing.


A lot of those who were undecided a month ago now seem to have gone over the Yes camp

Citigroup
The poll for US-based bankers Citigroup found that support was running at 44%, a significant increase on a similar poll last month, which found the Yes vote was just 29%.

The latest survey found that 22% of respondents would oppose the treaty, and 27% were undecided.

Irish voters rejected the treaty in a referendum last year, but have a second chance to vote on it next week.

Turnout crucial

Citigroup cautions that exactly the same level of support, 44%, was registered in the days before the June 2001 referendum - but in the event 54% of voters rejected it.

"A lot of those who were undecided a month ago now seem to have gone over the Yes camp," Citigroup, who commissioned the poll, said in analysing the results.

"Much will depend on the last days of the campaign, and on the level of turnout."

In June 2001, turnout was unexpectedly low, at 35%, but this time a larger turnout is predicted.

All Ireland's main parties are urging voters to back the treaty. Opponents include Sinn Fein, the Greens, and some trade unions.

Uncharted territory

"There are some signals that are quite positive on the Irish referendum," said a Brussels diplomat.

"I'm optimistic that Irish public opinion will demonstrate responsibility."

An Irish Times poll at the end of September suggested that 37% of voters were planning to accept the treaty and 25% to reject it. Nearly one in three of those polled said they had not decided.


If they say No - there's no reason to hide it - we'll be in a crisis

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen
On Wednesday, the European Commission recommended that 10 new countries should be admitted to the bloc in 2004, in an annual enlargement report ahead of an EU summit later this month in Brussels.

The Nice Treaty sets out institutional reforms needed before the EU can take in new members, and has already been ratified by the 14 other EU states.

Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said a No vote would plunge the EU into uncharted territory.

Dail declaration

"If they say No - there's no reason to hide it - we'll be in a crisis," he said.

A report in Thursday's Irish Times quotes EU sources as saying that Brussels will ask the Irish parliament, the Dail, to issue a declaration backing EU expansion if Irish voters reject the Nice Treaty again.

"The idea is that the Irish should provide us with their interpretation of what the vote means, declaring that in the eyes of Ireland it is not a rejection of enlargement," said one official, quoted by the newspaper.

See also:

08 Oct 02 | Europe
03 Oct 02 | Europe
04 Oct 02 | Europe
30 Sep 02 | Europe
18 Sep 02 | Europe
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