Ireland risks splitting EU, says adviser to Sarkozy


Alain Lamassoure MEP tells Jamie Smyth, European Correspondent, Ireland was wrong to hold a referendum, which is 'a tool for dictators'.

A KEY adviser to French president Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that Ireland could spark a major crisis capable of splitting the EU if it cannot ratify the Lisbon treaty by next spring.

Alain Lamassoure, a former French minister for European Affairs and now an MEP, said yesterday it was up to the Government to determine how it could pass the treaty though either a new referendum or a majority in the Dáil. He said Taoiseach Brian Cowen had only a few months to solve the problem ahead of next year's European elections in June.

"Nobody outside Ireland can say what will be needed in Ireland, neither on the content nor on the procedure. What we can tell the Irish is the deadline, the calendar that we all need," said Mr Lamassoure, who is credited with devising Mr Sarkozy's strategy to craft a mini-treaty to bypass the French public's rejection of the EU constitution in May 2005.

He rejected the idea that French pressure to ratify Lisbon despite the Irish No vote was capable of splitting the Union. "It is not us that run the risk of splitting the Union," said Mr Lamassoure. "If the other 26 ratify and Ireland is the only country not to ratify it is up to Ireland to say we are ready to split the Union, to kick off a huge crisis in the Union."

He said it was a mistake for the Government to hold a referendum on Lisbon and described such plebiscites as "tools for dictators" as evidenced by European history. "If you hold 10 or 12 referendums and in every state there is 80 per cent support for an idea there is still only a less than 1 per cent probability that the measure will pass everywhere," he said.

Mr Lamassoure effectively ruled out the possibility that the current legal base for the Union provided by the Nice treaty could continue to be used into the future.

"We are paralysed by the unanimity rule and we pass legislation through undemocratic procedures . . . we have a duty to grant our citizens more power," he said. "Power is exercised in the EU through very obscure procedures devised half a century ago to run what was then a single customs union. This cannot run a fully fledged political union."

Mr Lamassoure also announced an initiative at a conference held by the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament to propose a single EPP candidate for the post of president of the European Commission next spring before the European elections.

By coming to agreement on a single candidate the group hopes to ensure the June elections are fought on European issues rather than local issues, which up until now have tended to dominate.