Relieved EU leaders to press last treaty holdouts
Dublin — Relieved EU leaders hailed Ireland’s vote to accept a key reform treaty as attention turned Sunday to the last two nations holding up the moves to streamline decision-making in the 27-nation bloc.
Irish voters backed the Lisbon Treaty by 67 percent to 33 percent in a referendum which overturned their damning rejection last year.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen called it "a good day for Ireland and… a good day for Europe." European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso called the vote a "sign of confidence."
But French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for new pressure on final holdouts Poland and Czech Republic to quickly ratify the treaty.
"France wants the states which have not yet done so, to finish the ratification procedure as quickly as possible so that the Lisbon Treaty can be implemented before the end of the year, as the 27 promised," Sarkozy said.
In a statement, the French leader called on Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency, "to take all necessary initiatives so that the Lisbon Treaty quickly comes into force."
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he had called a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Barroso "to decide the action to take to advance the situation."
Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski has said he would sign the treaty if Ireland voted yes. The euro-sceptic Kaczynski made no immediate comment on the Ireland result, but Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called for quick action.
"I hope that now President Kaczynski will sign the treaty very quickly as he promised," Tusk told journalists. "Europe is waiting," he added. Polish officials said the signature could come within days.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus — another fierce opponent of the treaty — said ratification was "not on the cards" however after the country’s constitutional court ordered him to hold off signing the treaty into force.
The court is to rule on whether the treaty breaches the Czech constitution but the ruling could take several weeks.
Doubts also linger about Britain where the opposition Conservatives have said that if they win a national election next year they will order a referendum if the treaty has not been approved by all 27 nations.
Conservative leader David Cameron said Sunday: "I think people in this country will be frustrated and angry that Ireland has been able to vote twice on a treaty that changes the way we’re governed and yet we haven’t been able to vote once."
But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the result cleared the way for the European Union "to focus on the issues that matter most to Europeans — a sustained economic recovery, security, tackling global poverty, and action on climate change."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said she was "very happy" because Ireland’s move was "an important step" towards implementing the treaty.
The treaty — which creates a full-time EU president and a foreign affairs supremo — must be ratified by all 27 EU members to come into force and Ireland’s first rejection in 2008 almost torpedoed the reforms.
The new vote went ahead against a backdrop of severe economic recession which experts said pushed Irish people back into the European fold.
Dublin held another referendum after securing guarantees on key policy areas which it felt were behind last year’s rejection, such as its military neutrality, abortion and tax laws.
The result was welcomed in the Balkans, where EU membership candidates including Serbia had feared a second Irish No would torpedo their chances of joining the bloc.
The Yes vote "has opened doors to Europe that will have space for all European nations, including those from the western Balkans," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told Beta news agency.