Sarkozy to visit Ireland to discuss vote


France's President Nicolas Sarkozy last night said he would to come to Ireland in July to hear the Government's perspective on the Lisbon vote and to meet others involved in the debate.

EU leaders last night debated the Irish decision and the ratification process over dinner but were unable to reach agreement on a summit statement commiting the 26 to completing their ratification process because of Czech reservations. The Slovenian Presidency of the EU will present another compromise draft to the Czechs this morning.

We realise realised that there is no automatic ratification process and no obligatory ratification process Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek

The Czech Supreme Court is due to rule in September on the treaty which is opposed by President Vaclav Klaus. "We realise realised that there is no automatic ratification process and no obligatory ratification process," Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek said.

France assumes the EU presidency on July 1st and Mr Sarkozy went out of his way not, as he put it, "to take sides in the debate", but warned that a failure to agree institutional reform next year would put in jeopardy the strategically important enlargement of the EU to the Balkans. 

He said that leaders last night had heard a "frank" presentation of the campaign by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and that they agreed to wait until October give Ireland time to come up with a "definitive solution". He stressed the importance of settling the issue decisively ahead of next summer's European elections.

Asked if Ireland would definitely have to vote again, Mr Sarkozy said that he was not prepared to make such a statement "barely seven days after the vote" but that intelligent observers would be able to draw their own conclusions.

The Czech acknowledged that they would, as the subsequent presidency, see through the negotiations with Ireland on ratification.

Mr Sarkozy also criticised Europe's trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, saying he should bear some of the blame for Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Mr Sarkozy has long criticised Mr Mandelson for making too many farm concessions to close a long-overdue global trade deal.

The French president said the British commissioner had upset Irish farmers with his strategy at the World Trade Organisation talks.

Asked whether European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was to blame for the Irish vote, which has thrown the EU into crisis, Mr Sarkozy told reporters: "Ireland's debate focused on abortion, euthanasia..., taxation, the WTO, agriculture. You can't blame that on Mr Barroso. Choose someone else. Mandelson, for example."

Mr Sarkozy reiterated his opposition to the kind of deal shaping up in negotiations at the WTO.

"If we want to deepen the Irish crisis, all we have to do is add to it by continuing on a totally unbalanced agreement at the WTO. That is really counterproductive," he said.

"One child dies every 30 seconds because they are hungry, and we should go and negotiate within the WTO framework a 20 per cent cut in European agricultural production? Honestly, there is one person who is of that opinion - that's Mr Mandelson."

Additional reporting by Reuters