Doubt over legal status of Lisbon guarantees

THERE is still huge uncertainty over whether guarantees regarding neutrality, abortion and taxation will be attached as protocols to the Lisbon treaty – a key demand of the Government for re-running the referendum.

The Government has finally unveiled a full list of guarantees it wants from the EU. Its draft also sets out exactly what the Lisbon treaty does and does not do, in an effort to allay concerns that it would create an EU army, lead to conscription, allow other countries to set our tax rates, and force the country to adopt liberal abortion laws.

All member states are willing to make them legally binding, and point out they have international treaty status when agreed by the 27 heads of state.

The Government, however, sought to have them added to the next treaty following Lisbon in response to critics who said they could otherwise be superseded by the European Court of Justice.

EU governments have been considering overnight the six-page list of guarantees drawn up by Ireland and the EU’s legal service.

This morning they will be debated in detail by ambassadors from the 27 EU countries to ensure there is complete agreement on the wording before Thursday’s summit of EU leaders.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin, at a meeting in Luxembourg yesterday, said: “We are now putting beyond doubt the issues that surfaced as being important to Irish people in the last Lisbon treaty campaign.”

The draft spells out that Ireland will decide what peacekeeping missions it joins; how much it will spend on defence; and how it would aid countries attacked by armed forces or terrorists.

The concerns of trade unions and social partners are dealt with in detail.

It also reiterates that education and health services are the responsibility of each member state and that local authorities retain control over services.

But the final decision on whether to accept the texts will be taken by the leaders of the member states during their summit in Brussels on Thursday.

They are also likely to decide the legal form they will take. Britain and the Netherlands want them to remain as decisions of the Council of the EU.

Mr Martin pointed out that this means they are legally binding, but added that the Government would like them to be copper-fastened by attaching them to a treaty in the future.

Mr Martin said the Taoiseach Brian Cowen may announce a date for the referendum later this week at the summit. It is expected to be held in late September or early October.

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