Yes vote for EU treaty in 'Irish interests'


An Irish vote in favour of the EU reform treaty is important for Europe and for Irish interests, the Dutch minister of European affairs said in Dublin yesterday.

Frans Timmermans said it would be "a setback for Europe" if the Republic were to reject the treaty in next year's referendum.

The Republic will be the only EU state to hold a referendum on the treaty, which is due to be signed in Lisbon next week.

"Ireland is seen by everyone as a huge success story of European integration. People would expect Irish voters to be positive about Europe and therefore say yes in a referendum, which will reinforce Ireland's position," Mr Timmermans said following a conference at the Institute of European Affairs.

The minister said it was time for the EU to leave institutional squabbles on decision-making behind. "To be able to put an end to the endless discussions on the rules of the game will put us in a better position to play the game, and then Ireland will profit enormously," he said.

"For instance, if Europe is to play a leadership role in climate change and energy policies, we need a performing Europe for that, and to do that we need this treaty."

Mr Timmermans was joined by Pierre Moscovici, former French minister for European affairs. Both outlined the reasons why France and the Netherlands rejected the reform treaty's forerunner in referendums held in 2005.

Mr Moscovici said the French referendum had been a "terrible experience" and France was "tremendously weakened" in Europe after it rejected the treaty.

He added: "A no [ vote] is never a decision that makes you stronger."

Mr Moscovici praised French president Nicolas Sarkozy's decision not to have a referendum this time round as "wise" because France "would have had a similar referendum and perhaps a similar result".

Mr Timmermans said the treaty should be presented in a clear and coherent manner in the run-up to the Republic's referendum.

"I think it is very important not to confuse people with mixed or difficult messages but simply concentrate on the main issues at hand and clearly underline why this is an important treaty that is in Ireland's interest."

The Republic will have a "special responsibility" because of its referendum, said Mr Moscovici, who recommended that voters are fully informed of the issues surrounding the treaty.

"The yes [ vote] will win in Ireland if the people feel involved and know not just what Europe brought them in the past but what it will bring them in the future," he added.