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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Poles plead for Irish ayes
Dublin scene - bridge over River Liffey
Bridging the divide: Poles want Irish help
The campaign to persuade wavering Irish voters to back the Nice Treaty is being bolstered by Polish e-mailers.

Politicians and newspapers have been urging Poles to write letters and send messages in a bid to sway Irish voters in Saturday's referendum on European enlargement.


A strong vote for the treaty at the referendum would be a big gesture towards European solidarity

Polish appeal

The Nice Treaty is being put to the vote for a second time, 16 months after it was narrowly rejected in its first public test.

It is a key part of the European Union's plans to take in new members, including Poland, which is keen to reap the benefits from EU membership.

If the treaty is passed in Ireland, expansion should go ahead without further hitches in 2004.

If it is rejected, it throws a spanner in the works - delaying expansion for an unknown period.

"No" campaigners must woo the 24% of undecided voters

Polish Euro-enthusiasts have been deploying several methods to make their appeal to Irish voters.

Leading Polish politicians have written a letter appealing directly to the Irish people to vote yes.

"A strong vote for the treaty at the referendum would be a big gesture towards European solidarity," said the appeal, which was published in Poland's Rzeczpospolita newspaper.

"A No vote would give support to the enemies of the EU who won't look back."

The signatories include former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Oscar award-winning Polish film-maker Andrzej Wajda.

Other Poles have used e-mails or letters to get their message through.

One leading newspaper, the Gazete Wyborcza, launched an e-mail campaign, providing readers with a template to contact five Irish newspapers.

Campaign's last days

European Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen spoke optimistically about the progress of the Yes campaign on Sunday, saying the odds offered by Irish bookmakers indicated a victory.


I was told that the bookmakers in Dublin now have the odds at 9-4 in favour of a Yes vote and my view is, especially in Ireland, that bookmakers are much more reliable than opinion polls

Guenter Verheugen
EU Commissioner

Mr Verheugen's upbeat assessment came in an interview broadcast on Swedish SVT television.

"I must say that I am very, very confident that we will get a Yes vote," he said.

"I was told that the bookmakers in Dublin now have the odds at 9-4 in favour of a Yes vote and my view is, especially in Ireland, that bookmakers are much more reliable than opinion polls."

The No campaign suffered a setback when chief spokesman Justin Barrett confirmed attending meetings of far-right parties in Italy and Germany.

He insisted that he had been unaware of the policies of the neo-fascist Forza Nuova Party in Milan, and Germany's far-right National Democratic Party.

Undecided

Latest opinion polls suggest that 41% of voters are planning to back the treaty, with 27% against.

The crucial "undecided" sector stands at 24% - high enough to swing the result either way.

The Irish Government on Monday renewed its campaign to persuade voters to take part.

"No matter what people's point of view, they should come out and vote and make sure of the highest possible level of participation," said MP and government chief whip Mary Hanafin.

A second No vote would cause Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's government renewed embarrassment among his European counterparts, as well as complicating the enlargement process.

European officials say there is no credible Plan B to the treaty, although observers have said that new ways around the problem might be found if the need arises.

See also:

08 Oct 02 | Europe
03 Oct 02 | Europe
13 Jun 01 | Europe
27 Sep 02 | Europe
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