Poll sends shockwaves through EU as commission urges citizens to vote

THE European Commission refused to comment on the latest opinion poll showing a big swing against the Lisbon treaty, but it did urge all Irish citizens to vote next week.

The results of yesterday’s Lisbon poll sent shockwaves through the EU commission and many of the member states, especially France, which takes over the EU presidency next month.

Spokesman for commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, said: “It is up to the Irish voters to make up their mind on how to vote. But voting matters and if there is one thing that the commission wants to emphasise, it is that it’s very important that the Irish people do use their right to vote.”

Asked if the commission was preparing a plan on how to deal with a rejection of the treaty, he said that they would not speculate on the result, but would wait to see the outcome of the vote.

Every country needs to ratify the treaty before it can come into force on January 1 next year. However, the first country to reject it will put a halt to its progress.

Former Taoiseach and , current European Commission ambassador to the US, John Bruton, said it would be a big step for Irish voters to reject a treaty already agreed to by all the governments. “I believe that a burden of proof rests with those who intend to vote no. They will want to conscientiously satisfy themselves that they know enough, and have good enough strong reasons, to reject, for 500 million people, something agreed to by the elected governments of those 500 million people,” he said.

Arguing that the treaty was complicated was not a sufficient reason to reject something that 27 democratically elected EU governments agreed was necessary, to deal with problems such as cross border crime, which everybody knew cannot be dealt with by countries acting alone, he said.

France has been working on the basis that it will be involved in preparing to implement some of the provisions of the treaty.

A spokesman said that France’s presidency would operate on the basis of the existing treaties. But provided that nobody rejects the Lisbon treaty, EU leaders at their December summit will decide who gets the jobs of European Council president and the high representative for foreign relations.

The Czech government, which takes over the presidency in January, is said to have prepared two sets of plans depending on whether the treaty is passed or not.

French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, on a visit to Greece, said it was important to ratify the treaty.

“This treaty is not perfect but it puts 10 years of institutional debate to rest.”

But he admitted that even if the treaty was ratified it would not end what he called the ongoing crisis between the EU and its citizens. “This will only come when we show to the Greeks, and the French, that Europe is there to protect them and not to worry them.”


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