Candidate countries hope Irish voters will accept Nice Treaty

The Ministers for European Affairs of the 10 candidate countries expected to join the EU in 2004 have expressed hope the Irish voters will endorse the Nice Treaty and allow enlargement to go ahead.

At a meeting in Warsaw on 25 September, the Ministers for European Affairs of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia adopted a declaration, underlining the importance of the Nice Treaty for the enlargement process.

“Enlargement is a historical task. It represents an opportunity to heal the divisions in Europe of the past century, which brought such pain and suffering to so many, as well as to strengthen peace and security throughout our continent,” states the declaration.

The ministers expressed respect for “the right of the Irish people to make their own decision on the Treaty of Nice.” “We are strongly convinced that Irish people are fully aware of the opportunities that the participation in the European integration process brings. We also believe that they clearly see the chances created by EU enlargement. In this context we want to underline that the ratification of the Treaty of Nice by all the Member States is one of the elements of EU internal preparations for the admission of new members which will enable all of us to meet in the Union in 2004,” concludes the declaration.

 

Officially, noalternative planexists to go ahead with EU enlargement if the Irish voters reject the Nice Treaty again. Nevertheless, EU officials admit there are ways of circumventing a potential rejection, for example by including the change of voting rights and the EU's institutional set-up in the Accession Treaty with the candidate countries. However, such a move could be challenged in the European Court of Justice.

 

Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in a June 2001 referendum with 54 per cent of the vote. The Treaty includes institutional and decision-making reforms that represent a legal basis for EU enlargement.

 

The second Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty will be held on 19 October so that EU leaders can take decisions concerning the first wave of enlargement at the Brussels summit on 24-25 October.

 

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