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Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 14:45 UK

'No quick fix' to Irish No vote

Micheal Martin said the Irish people's decision must be respected

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.

He was speaking as EU foreign ministers met to discuss how to respond to the Irish No vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

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

The majority of EU members agree that those who have yet to ratify the treaty should carry on and do so.

EU foreign 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.

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.

"There are no quick fix solutions."

'Risky'

Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has been hosting Monday's meeting of foreign ministers.

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

"It would be risky to say we are going to bring the treaty back to life when we are facing... the moment of truth," AFP news agency quoted Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel as saying.

"I don't have any solution. We are going to listen to Minister [Micheal] Martin, maybe he has a solution. We are going to wait and think and let us respect the vote that has taken place."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, quoted by AFP, promised that the EU would solve the problem, but added: "I don't know how we'll solve it practically."

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has also said there is no obvious solution for a way forward on the Lisbon treaty, which is meant to streamline the workings of the EU and give it a stronger voice in the world.

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

Amid concern and frustration, BBC European affairs correspondent Oana Lungescu reports, the EU is looking for answers.

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.

No-one is expecting a magic formula to emerge from the Luxembourg meeting, she adds, so it will be up to EU leaders to try to chart a way forward when they gather on Thursday.

Unlikely allies

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been meeting Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk in the Polish city of Gdansk, backed the treaty.

"The EU needs the Lisbon treaty to be able to act and for future enlargements," she said.

Meanwhile, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has arrived in the Czech capital, Prague, for talks with the Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Slovak leaders.

LISBON TREATY
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

Mr Sarkozy's Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, whose signature is needed for the treaty's approval, has broken ranks by calling the Irish No a victory for liberty and reason over elitist plans and European bureaucracy.

There is also growing pressure on UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to stop the treaty from going through the last stage of ratification on Wednesday.

Mr Brown made 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 added that a "short period of reflection" was needed for the Irish Republic to assess what proposals it might offer for resolving the situation.

Meanwhile, more federalist leaders like Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker have revived calls for a multi-speed Europe.

They say that some countries could push forward with integration in what he called a Club of the Few.

The treaty is aimed at helping the EU to cope with its expansion into eastern Europe.

It 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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