ANN CAHILL: Cowen admits options are limited in Lisbon fallout

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen admitted his options were limited in relation to salvaging the Lisbon treaty after he was told by several of his EU colleagues that they do not want to renegotiate the treaty.

But one of the leaders of the no campaign, MEP Kathy Sinnott, insisted the document must be renegotiated and changed before it could be put to a second referendum.

Mr Cowen told a press conference after the summit: “A number indicated that they have no interest in reopening the text of the treaty.”

He said he will be working closely with the incoming council president, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who will be come to Dublin on July 11 for discussions.

But Mr Cowen said he was assured there would be no pressure on the Government to produce a solution to the crisis at their next summit in October.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who chaired the meeting, feared any pressure might backfire.

“There must be no external pressure and citizens, not just in Ireland, must not feel that someone is interfering in their right to decide,” he said.

But Mr Cowen was left in little doubt that he was expected to have a solution by December.

He acknowledged: “There are colleagues who believe there is not as much room to manoeuvre as some might suggest there is”.

Diplomats said he either asks for declarations to be added to the treaty dealing with voters fears on tax and other issues and puts this to the electorate again, or that he announces the treaty is dead as Ireland cannot ratify it.

Mr Cowen also tried to keep the issue of a time scale off the table at what was his first summit as taoiseach.

But several leaders and the commission president Jose Manuel Barroso warned against waiting too long.

Meanwhile, Mr Sarkozy attacked EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson over the Irish rejection.

He said the commission president was definitely not to blame, but added that one child was dying every 30 seconds from hunger when Mr Mandelson was trying to reduce agriculture production by 30%.

Mr Sarkozy and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, threw another spanner in the works when they insisted that there can be no further enlargement under the current Nice treaty.

Meanwhile, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith rejected claims by Mr Mandelson that yes campaigners in Ireland had failed to face down treaty opponents.


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