Taoiseach to brief EU leaders on Lisbon plan


TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen will this week visit the capitals of three key EU states, Germany, France and Britain, to brief his fellow heads of government about the Irish response to the Lisbon Treaty defeat.

Mr Cowen will also travel to Luxembourg to discuss the issue with prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the European Council meeting at the end of next week.

After his meeting in Luxembourg today, Mr Cowen will travel on to Berlin for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the outline of the plan the Government is framing to deal with the issue.

Tomorrow, Mr Cowen will travel to London for a meeting with British prime minister Gordon Brown, at Downing Street.

The week's round of meetings will finish on Friday when Mr Cowen travels to Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the presidency of the EU.

A Government statement said Mr Cowen's discussions with his European Council counterparts would focus on the situation in relation to the Lisbon Treaty ahead of next week's European Council meeting. It added that other EU issues, notably the climate change and energy package and the international financial crisis, are also likely to feature.

It is believed that the Irish response to Lisbon will centre on a commitment to hold another referendum on the treaty in autumn of next year if there is a commitment that all EU states will be allowed to retain a commissioner.

Mr Cowen visited Finland and Sweden last week to brief their prime ministers on the Irish strategy.

It will also hinge on agreement from the other 26 states to accept a number of binding declarations to the treaty to deal with Irish concerns about neutrality, abortion, tax and defence.

In the Dáil yesterday, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny pressed the Taoiseach for a debate in advance of next week's meeting of the European Council in Brussels which takes place on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Cowen agreed that the whips should arrange such a debate for Tuesday.