Ireland has to hold second referendum - Sarkozy

 

Ireland will have to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today.

"The Irish will have to vote again," Mr Sarkozy told deputies from his UMP party in a meeting in his office, several politicians who attended the meeting said.

Mr Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating six-month presidency, is due to travel to Ireland next week to discuss the reasons for the Irish No vote and seek a solution to it, which he hopes to put forward by the end of the year.

Mr Sarkozy's office said today he would not go to Dublin with a ready-made plan to present to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, despite a report that planning was well under way.

"The president is coming to listen to the Irish, to listen to what Brian Cowen tells him. He is not coming to make proposals," one adviser to Mr Sarkozy said.

"It is not up to us to make proposals," he added. "It is up to the Irish to tell us what the problem is and what they need to resolve it."

French newspaper Le Mondesaid one of the favoured options being examined in the search for a solution was reversing the planned streamlining of the EU executive, the Commission, to keep the current system of one commissioner per country.

"The reform of the European Commission should be sacrificed on the altar of the Irish No vote to the treaty of Lisbon," the newspaper said.

An official in Mr Sarkozy's office said that idea was "in the air rather than on the table".

Le Mondesaid offering Ireland guarantees on abortion, Ireland's neutrality, and taxation was also being envisaged.

Elsewhere today, Spain completed its ratification of the Lisbon treaty when the Senate voted overwhelmingly to adopt the document.

The Senate's 232-to-6 vote formalised previous approval in the lower Chamber of Deputies and made Spain the 23rd out of 27 member countries to back the document.

"I believe that today's approval of the treaty is a clear confirmation of the determination to move forward with the ratification process," European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

Earlier, Mr Barroso said he did not expect any more countries to reject the Lisbon treaty after the Irish No vote.

Addressing the Italian parliament, Mr Barroso said Polish president Lech Kaczynski had reassured him his country would not block the ratification of the treaty. Mr Barroso also said the Czech Republic would also be no obstacle.

"There has only been one No to the ratification of the treaty, and I do not expect any more," Mr Barroso said.

"During the next months, it will be crucial to work in a close partnership with the Irish Government to move ahead."

Additional reporting Bloomberg