Most Europeans anti-Lisbon - McCreevy

Fri, Jun 26, 2009, 01:00

The European Union's Lisbon reform treaty would have been rejected in most countries had they followed Ireland's example and held a referendum on it last year, EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said today.

Mr McCreevy drew criticism last year for saying just weeks before Ireland's referendum that he had not read the entire treaty and did not expect "any sane, sensible person" to do so in their free time.

Ireland will hold a second referendum in early October after winning guarantees on issues of main concern for voters including abortion, taxation and military neutrality.

A clear majority of voters now support the treaty but the Government has vowed to run a much more vigorous campaign than last year to rule out the possibility of another rejection which it says would completely marginalise Ireland in the EU.

"When the Irish people rejected the Lisbon treaty a year ago the initial reactions ranged from one of shock to horror, to aghastness and temper and vexation," said Mr McCreevy, the EU's Internal Market Commissioner.

"On the other hand, I think all of the politicians of Europe would have known quite well that if a similar question had been put to their electorate in a referendum the answer in 95 per cent of countries would have been 'No' as well," Mr McCreevy told a meeting of accountants in Dublin.

Britain's opposition Conservatives said earlier this year they wanted a referendum on the treaty, which is designed to streamline decision-making in the 27-member bloc and which still faces political and legal hurdles in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Chances of a more lively pro-treaty Irish campaign got a boost this month when Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, Ireland soccer captain Robbie Keane, U2 guitarist the Edge and film director Jim Sheridan teamed up to support the new "Ireland For Europe" campaign.

Ireland has also received a guarantee that all member states would retain their right to a European commissioner after the current executive's term runs out at the end of October.

Mr McCreevy, a former minister for finance, has said he would retire from politics at that point.