Sarkozy warns against panicked reaction to Irish rejection
French president stresses the need to address the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty with calm and sang froid.17 June 2008
PRAGUE - French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Monday against any panicked over-reaction to Irish voters' rejection of the European Union's reforming Lisbon Treaty in a referendum last week.
"Nobody should feel that they are trapped," Sarkozy said during a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in Prague.
The French president stressed the need to address the situation "with calm and sang froid" and warned against any temptation for the EU to plunge back "into 10 years of institutional discussions".
Topolanek said the situation was "very serious" but added that his government would consider any "transitional measure" aimed at averting a crisis.
The Lisbon Treaty, which provides for a streamlining of the European Commission and the removal of the national veto in more policy areas, was partly aimed at helping the EU to cope with its expansion into eastern Europe.
All EU countries have to ratify the treaty for it to take effect. The Czech Republic is one of eight countries, in addition to Ireland, that have yet to ratify the treaty.
The Irish 'no' vote has strengthened opposition to the Lisbon Treaty within Topolanek's right-wing Civic Democratic Party, the senior government party with some senior party members stating that they regard the ratification process as now dead in its tracks.
Topolanek sidestepped the question Monday pointing out that the Czech parliament is currently waiting for the verdict of the Czech Constitutional Court on whether the treaty complies with local law.
Sarkozy, recalling France's rejection of a new EU constitution in 2005, said it was only natural that "our Czech friends need time" to discuss their next step.
"I know perfectly well that a type of euroscepticism exists in the Czech Republic that we also knew in France," he said.
Ahead of Sarkozy's visit, Topolanek together with his counterparts from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland stressed at a regional summit in Prague that the EU's further enlargement should not be sacrificed because of the debate over how to proceed with institutional reform.
"We are aware of the threat that this could bring... for the integration of Croatia without modification of the Nice Treaty," Topolanek said during the news conference.
"The other risk is that this could set off a European debate which risks overshadowing the European agenda concerning concrete questions such as the price of oil and food, the energy package and immigration," he added.
[AFP / Expatica]