Ireland will vote on treaty next year, EU says

15:02, 11 December 2008
World
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The rejection of the treaty...

 Ireland will hold a second referendum on the European Union`s stalled reform treaty before the end of October 2009, the French government said Thursday, according to AP.

France, which currently holds the EU presidency, wrote in a document expected to be endorsed by EU leaders at summit talks later Thursday that Ireland would vote again in return for changes to the so-called Lisbon treaty.

The rejection of the treaty by Irish voters in June left the document in limbo, as it has to be ratified by all 27 EU members before it can come into force. The treaty is meant to streamline the EU`s 50-year-old rules of procedure and bolster its position on the world stage.

EU leaders on Thursday will back some key changes to the draft treaty, notably scrapping plans to slim down the EU`s executive office, according to the EU text obtained by The Associated Press. EU nations will also be prepared to offer Ireland other guarantees, including assurances that its cherished neutrality stays intact.

The guarantees are meant to ease Irish fears that the EU would strip away long-held Irish provisions such as those that outlaw abortion and guarantee workers` rights, and would dilute health and education standards.

The French text says a second vote would be held before the current term of the EU`s executive commission runs out, which is at the end of October 2009.

"The Irish Government is committed to seeking ratification of the Lisbon Treaty," the summit document said. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is to formally present his country`s demands for changes later Thursday.

Cowen is facing heavy criticism at home over his government`s determination to stage a second referendum. Ireland is the only EU member whose constitution requires ratification by a public referendum.

Twenty-four EU members have already ratified the treaty. Ireland, the Czech Republic and Poland are the three yet to do so.

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