Page last updated at 21:42 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 22:42 UK

EU urged to give Dublin more time

Members of Open Europe campaign group protest outside Eu summit in Brussels, 19/06/08
Some campaign groups say the Irish 'No' should halt the treaty in its tracks

EU leaders meeting in Brussels have been urged to give the Irish Republic more time to deal with its people's rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

Irish PM Brian Cowen has been speaking to his EU counterparts about his country's referendum over a working dinner on the summit's first day.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso urged respect for the poll.

Germany rejected the idea of moving ahead on Lisbon without Ireland, which won strong Czech backing at the summit.

Meanwhile, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner has said sanctions imposed on Cuba in 2003 will be lifted.

'Too early'

The Czech Republic's Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, told the BBC that "pushing" countries like his own and Ireland would not make ratification come any sooner.

"Don't press us," he told the World Tonight programme.

"I think any kind of pressure could be very counter-productive."

Mr Barroso suggested that a plan might be ready for an EU summit in October and ruled out renegotiating the reform treaty.

The BBC's Mark Mardell looks at the options open to EU leaders after the Irish vote

The president of the commission urged other EU members to continue with ratification.

He has also been pressing for the two-day summit to focus on other issues such as fuel and food prices.

The uncertain future for the treaty is likely to stymie EU business, like planning for the accession of Croatia and other Balkan nations, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this was one reason "why we all must have a passionate interest in the Lisbon Treaty taking effect quickly".

But how that will happen remains unclear.

The treaty must be ratified by all 27 member states to take effect. Nineteen have approved it so far, the latest of which was the UK, where it passed through parliament on Wednesday.

"It is necessary for Ireland to have time now to analyse last week's vote and explore options," Mr Cowen said.

"It is far too early yet for anybody to put forward proposals."

Approved by parliament: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, UK
Defeated by referendum: Irish Republic
Challenges: Legal objections in Czech Republic
No firm date: Belgium, Cyprus, Netherlands (held up by referendum proposal), Italy (new government), Spain (new government), Sweden

Mr Barroso has said the EU will back short-term measures to address social hardship, but he has warned that high oil prices have to be tackled with long-term plans.

Our correspondent says the summit will reassure Balkan countries that they can join the bloc when they meet the required economic and political conditions, and back plans for an "eastern partnership" with former Soviet republics like Ukraine.

The President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, insisted that accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey would continue despite the Lisbon Treaty ratification problem.

"No-one thinks the negotiations with Turkey will be halted," he told reporters in Brussels.

But diplomats say it will be difficult to continue with enlargement until the EU can agree on ways to work better, either with or without the reform treaty.

Germany and France have been at pains to impress this on the Czech Republic and Poland, which are keen on eastward expansion of the EU but hesitating over ratification of Lisbon.

At the summit, the leaders will also turn their attention to Zimbabwe's forthcoming elections.

Los Angeles Times EU to conditionally lift Cuba sanctions - 1 hr ago
Washington PostE.U. Ready to Lift Diplomatic Sanctions on Cuba - 1 hr ago
San Luis EU urges action on fuel crisis, treaty - 2 hrs ago
Houston Chronicle EU pushes Ireland to salvage Lisbon Treaty - 2 hrs ago
Beaufort Gazette EU agrees to lift 5-year-old sanctions on Cuba - 2 hrs ago
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