Second poll on Lisbon to be held before end of October


A second referendum to ratify the Lisbon Treaty will be held before October 31st, according to draft conclusions which EU leaders are expected to sign off on today.

The leaders will also agree to allow each member state to retain their commissioner and to give "necessary legal guarantees" to Ireland on "taxation policy, family, social and ethical issues, and common security and defence policy with regard to Ireland's traditional policy of neutrality", say the conclusions obtained by The Irish Timeslast night.

EU leaders gather today in Brussels for a summit which will decide a roadmap on how to ratify the treaty which was rejected by Ireland last June. They will also seek to agree a package on climate change and an economic recovery package.

The draft conclusions will be tabled today by French and current EU president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Other member states will give the concessions to Ireland "with a view to enabling the treaty to enter into force by the end of 2009".

EU leaders are expected to specify that Ireland must ratify the Lisbon Treaty before the term of the current European Commission ends on October 31st, 2009.

¿It¿s important to Irish society and to future generations that we make the right decision now in terms of retaining an active, influential role at the heart of the European Union,¿ Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said this morning.

¿We are seeking legally binding and robust guarantees,¿ Mr Martin told RTÉ radio. ¿That work remains to be completed with our European partners over the coming months and any second referendum is conditional on the satisfactory conclusion of that work.¿

The conclusions also contain an annex with a statement of concerns of the Irish people, which will be laid out by Taoiseach Brian Cowen to EU leaders at today's summit in Brussels. This statement offers assurances that: Ireland's requirements regarding maintenance of its traditional policy of neutrality are met; that the terms of the Lisbon Treaty will not affect the continued application of the provisions of the Constitution in relation to the right to life, education and the family; that in the area of taxation the treaty of Lisbon makes no change of any kind.

The statement goes on to say that the EU attaches high importance to social progress and the protection of workers' rights; public services, as an indispensable instrument of social and regional cohesion; the responsibility of member states for the delivery of education and health services; and the essential role of local government in providing commissioning and organising non-economic services of general interest.

The conclusions, which could still be changed following today's debate at the summit, also outline that if Lisbon comes into force after the European elections in June, transition measures will be adopted as soon as possible to introduce the treaty.

Earlier today, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said it was possible to give Ireland legally binding reassurances on the Lisbon treaty over voter concerns such as abortion.

Mr Barroso told said that while the EU could not change the treaty now, it was possible to accommodate Irish concerns.

It also emerged yesterday that the Government has forced changes to a key declaration on European security and defence policy (ESDP), which aims to boost existing EU ties with Nato. The changes to the declaration reflect Irish efforts to have the UN's role highlighted at the European Council meeting, where EU leaders will pledge to give a "fresh impetus to European security and defence, in full complementarity with Nato".

"The European Council states the union's determination to continue its support for the UN and for the efforts made by regional security organisations, including the African Union, to promote international peace and security," says a paragraph in the declaration on the enhancement of ESDP, which was inserted at the request of Irish diplomats.

France has launched a range of initiatives to bolster the EU's security and defence policy and its military capabilities during its six month presidency of the EU. These include an update of the EU's security strategy due to be published tomorrow, which highlights new threats facing the union such as climate change, energy security and cyber-crime.

Ibec today welcomed the draft proposals, saying they set out a roadmap to address Irish voters¿ concerns.

Ibec¿s director general Turlough O Sullivan said the Lisbon Treaty would help safeguard Irish jobs and exports. He said it would be ¿naïve¿ to suggest the Irish rejection of the treaty ¿comes without a price tag¿.