Sarkozy rules out Lisbon Treaty renegotiation


French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the European Parliament today that there could be no renegotiation of the Lisbon Treaty and that he would propose a solution for the stalled reform treaty in October or December following consultation with the Irish Government.

The French president made his comments during an address to the European Parliament as he set out the goals of France's six-month presidency of the EU which it assumed on July 1st.

Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty, intended to adapt the 27-nation bloc's institutions for further enlargement, in a referendum last month.

Mr Sarkozy said the choice was either to stick with the Lisbon Treaty or revert to the old Nice Treaty, which the Lisbon Treaty replaces.

The problem with the Nice Treaty, Mr Sarkozy said, was that it implied no further expansion of the EU without the streamlined EU decision-making arrangements which the Lisbon Treaty introduces.

"It is not for a Frenchman to judge the Irish 'No'. We must not offend our Irish colleagues but we need to know under what Treaty we are going to organise the Euro-elections in 2009 - either the Lisbon treaty or the Nice Treaty" said Mr Sarkozy.

"It is either Lisbon or Nice - there can be no more institutional conferences," he said referring to the IGCs which are the forum for treaty negotiations.

He also said he thought it was wrong to put such as issue to a referendum in the first place. To applause from MEPs, he commented: "Institutional things are for members of parliament, rather than referendums - it's a political choice and perfectly democratic."

He added that without reformed institutions, the EU could not enlarge beyond its current 27 members, even though it would continue negotiations with Croatia, the next candidate in line. He said he would propose a solution for the reform treaty this year in consultation with Ireland's leaders.

"The French presidency will propose a method and, I hope, a solution either in October or in December," Mr Sarkozy said.

Mr Sarkozy said he would visit Ireland on July 21st to sound out political leaders on a way forward for the treaty.

The French leader also increased pressure on Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski to sign the European Union reform treaty.

Mr Kaczynski, widely viewed as Eurosceptic, said earlier this month it would be "pointless" to sign the Lisbon treaty after it was rejected in an Irish referendum and that Warsaw would not ratify it unless Ireland overcomes its voters' opposition to it.

He later said Poland would not block the treaty's ratification.

But Mr Sarkozy urged Mr Kaczynski to keep his word by signing the treaty. "He negotiated the treaty himself. He gave his word and the word has to be honoured. It is not a question of politics, it is a question of morality," Mr Sarkozy told the European Parliament.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil yesterday that the Government's analysis of the Lisbon Treaty referendum result is expected to be available in September.

He said: "The Department of Foreign Affairs is undertaking work on this matter and the information will probably be collated and available in September."

Mr Cowen added: "We need to apply our minds to what forum we can use to conduct dialogue on its implications and collectively assess the means by which we could articulate the issues."

The Taoiseach said the Government would work with the European Commission "to see, based on our preliminary analysis, to what extent we can move matters forward". It was "a difficult situation", which would "probably require further discussion", he added.

PA, Reuters