Treaty changes are 'compatible with Constitution'


TAOISEACH'S PRESS CONFERENCE:TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen declared his happiness with the agreed text of a narrow revision to the Lisbon Treaty and said he supported the role of the European Commission as a row brew with major member states over the EU budget.

As he prepared to leave Brussels yesterday after a two-day European summit, Mr Cowen said the proposed treaty amendment was “simple and straightforward” and compatible with the Constitution.

While the text agreed by diplomats was strengthened at the request of German chancellor Angela Merkel, the Taoiseach said it was still the case that the revision was unlikely to necessitate an Irish referendum. “There is no substantive element added to the drafts we’ve been studying up until now,” he said.

“We expect to be in position to give a definitive view when we report to the Dáil on the outcome of this council in the new term.” On the suggestion of Socialist MEP Joe Higgins that he will mount a legal challenge if there is no referendum, Mr Cowen said people were free to consider their own position.

“Joe is one of our leading constitutional experts, I know,” the Taoiseach said.

“There isn’t a change of competence or a transfer of competence, so our strong view is that it is compatible with the Constitution.” Mr Cowen had scant regard for an effort by British prime minister David Cameron to freeze the EU budget until the end of the decade, a move that Germany and France are set to support.

“My position is that I respect the right of initiative of the commission to bring forward a budget.

“What would be the view of the European Council as a whole, is that of course the budgetary realities that national governments have to face, have to be reflected in the budgetary realities the EU institutions have to face as well.”

On the effort to shore up the euro zone, Mr Cowen said it was important to examine any new measures in a careful and discreet way.

“Given the hypersensitivity of markets, whether we believe they are rational or not, is not the point.” He dismissed again the suggestion of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny that a “haircut” of up to €17 billion should be imposed on the holders of €2 billion in unguaranteed senior bank bonds.

“We are not in a position to have unilateral action being taken as was suggested yesterday by leader of the Opposition. That was put on table during discussions.

“It’s clear that wider contagion, and other effects, would have had to be taken into account for Ireland. We need to internalise that and understand that and also recognise that what’s in our interest is a stable euro area.”