Kenny to explain Irish decision on holding referendum to other leaders

Thu, Mar 1, 2012, 00:00

TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny will set out the reasons for the fiscal treaty referendum to his European counterparts at an EU summit and declare his determination to win the vote.

The summit begins in Brussels at teatime this evening and continues tomorrow morning.

Although Mr Kenny will sign the fiscal treaty at a ceremony tomorrow, his signature is subject to the Republic’s ratification of the pact if the people vote in its favour.

Mr Kenny travelled to Brussels last night for a dinner with centre-right leaders in the European People’s Party (EPP), Fine Gael’s affiliate in Europe and the dominant political group in EU affairs.

He is also due to attend a lunch this afternoon with other EPP leaders, among them German chancellor Angela Merkel.

According to a senior European diplomat, he will have an opportunity at these meetings to provide an explanation for the Government’s decision to call a referendum. He is also expected to tell them of his political commitment to make every effort to ensure the referendum is carried.

The Taoiseach phoned several European leaders before addressing the Dáil on Tuesday and Irish officials contacted the offices of European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president José Manuel Barroso. They also informed Denmark’s rotating presidency of the EU of the decision.

Mr Kenny’s engagements in Brussels include his first public duties as part of the preparations for Ireland’s presidency of the union in the first half of next year.

He will attend a tripartite “social summit” this morning with Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and European business and trade union leaders.

This is in line with a tradition in which the leaders of the next two rotating presidencies of the EU attend such summits. Denmark’s presidency finishes in June and will be followed by Cyprus, which hands over to Ireland next January.

Danny McCoy, director general of business lobby group Ibec, and David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, are also due to attend the social summit.

At the EU summit this evening, Ms Thorning-Schmidt will propose a second mandate for Mr Van Rompuy for 2½ years from the start of June. He is unopposed.

Luxembourg’s premier, Jean-Claude Juncker, will also propose Mr Van Rompuy’s appointment as president of regular euro zone summits. He is unopposed for this too.