Irish begin voting in referendum on Lisbon Treaty
As EU awaits anxiously for poll results to be announced Friday, French Agriculture Minister voiced confidence the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty will come through.12 June 2008
DUBLIN - Just over three million Irish voters were called to the polls Thursday to vote on the European Union's Lisbon treaty.
Polling began at 7 am (0600 GMT) in 43 constituencies and was to continue until 10 pm (2100 GMT).
Ireland is the only one of 27 EU member states to hold a public referendum on the treaty aimed at simplifying decision-making in the bloc.
The latest opinion polls have shown the result of the referendum balanced on a knife-edge.
All the major Irish political parties have been campaigning for a yes vote. The no campaign has argued that the treaty threatens Ireland's neutrality, influence in Europe and advantageous corporate tax regime.
An Irish no would mean the treaty, a replacement for the failed EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, could not go into effect.
French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier, a former European commissioner, voiced confidence Thursday that Irish voters will approve the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty.
"The Irish are a responsible and sovereign people and I have confidence in them," Barnier told journalists in Paris for briefing ahead of France's assumption of the European Union's rotating presidency next month.
Irish voters have caused headaches for the EU in the past, rejecting the Nice Treaty in 2001 before approving it in a second referendum a year later.
Vote counting begins Friday at 9 am with official results expected to be announced by late afternoon.
[dpa / AFP / Expatica]