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29-10-2008

Constitutional Affairs Committee consults Irish Parliament

On 29 October a delegation of the European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee came to Dublin to meet with the Irish Parliament's Sub-Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union. During the hearing Irish and European parliamentarians exchanged views on the way forward after the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

European Parliament Delegation visits Dublin

The delegation of the European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs, was invited by the Sub-Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union to exchange views following the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. The delegation, lead by the chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, German MEP Jo Leinen, included six members of the European Parliament. Before meeting its Irish counterparts, the delegation met with Mr. Dick Roche, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for European Affairs. During its visit, the delegation also met with Brendan Halligan, Chairman of the Irish Institute for International and European Affairs.

Meeting with the Oireachtas Sub-Committee

The main purpose of the visit was to participate in a hearing of the Sub-Committee on Ireland's future in the European Union. Following an introduction by the chairman of the Sub-Committee, Senator Paschal Donohoe, the head of the EP delegation and the EP's Constitutional Affairs Committee, Jo Leinen (PSE/Germany) took the floor to present Parliament's view on the Lisbon treaty in an opening statement. After listing current national and European challenges he concluded that "we need a better basis for stronger policies and institutions in the EU to find solutions to our challenges". He recalled that MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution on the Lisbon Treaty in the EP. Elmar Brok (EPP-ED/Germany) explained the current cooperation of the EP and the National Parliaments, highlighting that both would find an increase in its powers under the Lisbon Treaty.
Following the opening statements, members of the Sub-committee questioned the delegation about cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty and asked for their views on the way forward following the Irish referendum and possible Irish opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty.
Telling the Sub-committee, how the Irish rejection was received in other European states, György Schöpflin (PPE-ED/Hungary) stressed that Ireland had always been a role model for Hungary and other Eastern European countries and pointed out that "It may be useful for the sub-committee to bear in mind in its discussions that Ireland is a stakeholder in the European Union and that the European Union is a stakeholder in Ireland."
Speaking on possible Irish opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty to allow a possible second referendum, Monica Frassoni (Greens/EFA/ Italy) militated against Irish opt-outs. "It [opt-outs] also strengthens the idea that Ireland or any other country has to defend itself from the European Union, which is not the case. What we want to do is make this place better."
On the question if the EU puts pressure on Ireland to hold a second referendum, Richard Corbett (PSE/UK) analysed, "if there is just one "No" vote, it is neither unreasonable nor undemocratic to ask the one whether it is willing to reconsider." Corbett also thought that the way to reach a feasible solution could be: "If Ireland were to come up with a list of desires and demands to, perhaps, clarify or interpret the treaty, or whatever, and if these issues could be debated, then Ireland would be shown to be trying to find a solution for all of us. We all need that solution."
In his closing words, former President of the European Parliament, Enrique Barón Crespo, (PSE/Spain) summarized the delegation's view saying "My message is short. We have come here and listened to what the committee had to say and it has listened to us. We want to keep Ireland at the heart of Europe, but it is up to Ireland to make its proposals as soon as possible. We need to strengthen Europe in order to survive the turbulence in the world."

During the meeting Irish MEPs Brian Crowley, Proinsias de Rossa, Eoin Ryan, Gay Mitchell and Colm Burke made use of their right to speak and addressed the Sub-Committee.


For further information, please contact the European Parliament Office at 01 605 7900