Lisbon vote is your decision, Wallstrom tells Dublin meeting

Fri, Sep 11, 2009, 01:00

THE LISBON Treaty would improve the EU’s capacity to deal with the financial crisis, globalisation, climate change and migration, European Commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom said in Dublin yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of the newly founded European Chamber of Ireland, Ms Wallstrom said: “I have not come to Ireland to lecture anyone. The decision on how you vote is just that: your decision.”

The European Chamber represents Irish companies with strong European links such as building materials group CRH, which sponsored a lunch for the new organisation at the RDS, as well as businesses from European states operating in Ireland. Participating organisations range from the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, to the Swiss-Irish Business Association.

“This treaty is the result of eight years of painstaking and long negotiations between 15 and then 27 member states,” Ms Wallstrom said. “It’s not perfect: compromises never are, but the reason we all were prepared to invest so much time and energy into it was precisely because it would equip us better to deal with challenges like the financial crisis, like the impact of globalisation, like climate change and migration.

“It was designed to enable the EU to play an effective role in these areas, while ensuring that, at the same time, the democratic control over those decisions is strengthened.”

The other 26 member states had done “everything possible” to address the concerns expressed by Irish voters last year, “and all will be watching for Ireland’s decision on 2nd October”.

“My hope is that the referendum will finally put an end to our internal reform process so that we can concentrate on finding common solutions to our common problems, as we have done so successfully during the entire post-war era,” Ms Wallstrom said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said: “It is true that we will not be expelled from the EU if we vote No. However, there is a world of difference between merely being in the union and being an effective, proactive, influential member – the quality of our membership is what counts.

“There will be cold comfort for Ireland if we retain our membership but find ourselves marginalised and unable to maintain the leading part we have played throughout the 36 years of our membership.

“The reality is that our place and influence within the union will be ‘changed utterly’ if, after the adjustments we have secured in the wake of last year’s referendum, we are still unable to join with the other 26 EU members in endorsing what is a relatively modest, pragmatic, but necessary reform package contained in this treaty.

“The risk – and it is a genuine one – is that our international reputation and our standing within the union will be fundamentally, perhaps irreparably, damaged by a second No vote.  In that event, our partners may well conclude that it is simply not possible to agree a set of arrangements for the EU’s future which Ireland could endorse,” Mr Martin said.

Also urging support, Jack Golden of CRH said: “We’re almost exactly three weeks away from one of the most fundamental decisions about the future of Ireland’s relationship with our European partners. The outcome of this referendum will have a profound effect on business, employment and, more importantly, the wellbeing of future generations in this country,” he said.

The business community “can’t just simply leave it to politicians and others. We need to show our support for the Lisbon Treaty and make it clear that it is in Ireland’s best interest to vote Yes.”