(AFP) – Jun 16, 2008
LUXEMBOURG (AFP) — EU foreign ministers, sifting through the wreckage of the bloc's Lisbon Treaty, admitted on Monday there are no quick fixes after its rejection by Irish voters plunged the bloc into crisis.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, warned against any hasty bid to save the treaty of reforms designed to streamline the EU's creaking institutions.
"It would be risky to say we are going to bring the treaty back to life when we are facing a blockade," he told journalists as he arrived to chair the talks with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.
Monday's meeting kicked off a week of European crisis-management which will culminate in a summit of EU heads of state and government in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
All eyes in Luxembourg were fixed on Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, under pressure to offer a way out of the legal impasse created by his country's voters.
He was offering little in the way of answers as he arrived for the talks.
"It's far too early in our view to start coming up with solutions," Martin said, adding that the first step should be a "comprehensive analysis" of the Irish verdict.
Irish voters, the only ones in Europe obliged to hold a referendum, delivered a resounding "no" to the European Union's reform treaty by 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent on Thursday, plunging the 27-member bloc into a new period of institutional uncertainty.
The Lisbon treaty, which is supposed to streamline the EU's currently complicated decision-making processes, has to be ratified by all member states in order to enter into force. Most have already done so, via the parliamentary route.
Signed by EU leaders last December in Portugal, it would give the bloc more majority voting rather than the difficult-to-achieve unanimity required now.
It would also introduce a European Council president for a two-and-a-half year term and a new stronger foreign policy supremo.
Since the Irish referendum results were announced, most EU leaders have insisted that ratification should continue in the eight nations that have not yet endorsed the treaty.
One of those is Britain, and London has vowed to push ahead this week with the treaty's final reading in the upper house of parliament.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also urged calm in the face of the prospect of yet another crisis over reforming the EU's institutions.
"I know that this is a world that instant answers are often desired but this is a world where calm heads need to prevail," he said. "I think that Europe benefits when it is led by calm heads rather than instant answers."
However Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose country also still has to ratify the text, has already said that Lisbon treaty is a dead letter.
France's European Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet, in the French Le Figaro daily, said Monday he hoped the ratification process would continue.
"I don't think that one can say the Lisbon Treaty is dead," he said.
The Irish vote was the third referendum blow in three years to EU plans to make its bureaucracy function smoothly.
In 2005 French and Dutch voters rejected the original EU constitution project, a fact which led to the painstaking drawing up of the Lisbon Treaty.
In the absence of an updated rulebook, the bloc could be left limping along with the 2001 Nice Treaty, which the Irish also initially rejected in a referendum before tweaks were made to accommodate them.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also promised that "we will solve the problem" of the Irish "no" vote while adding "I don't know how we'll solve it practically".
He admitted it would be an "intensive week" culminating in the EU summit.
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