17 June 2005

RTE

Irish EU referendum postponed

17 June 2005 15:37

The Government has said it is postponing the referendum on the EU Constitution, but that the ratification process will continue, with a longer period to debate the issue.

Portugal earlier said it will postpone its referendum on the European Union's proposed constitution after the decision by EU leaders to extend the deadline for ratification.

The referendum had been planned for October.

EU leaders at their summit in Brussels have begun a second day of talks in an effort to reach agreement on a long-term budget for the union.

Arriving for the meeting, the Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, said he was pessimistic about the chances of a deal on the budget and said it might be better to delay a decision for another year.

Last night the leaders agreed to extend the deadline for ratifying the constitution beyond November 2006 after its rejection by French and Dutch voters.

No new deadline has been announced, but the Luxembourg presidency said that member states had agreed to review the situation in mid-2007.

Denmark had already announced the postponement of its September referendum.

In an interview with RTÉ News last night, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said that he was confident that the EU Constitution could be saved.

No question of renegotiation: Juncker

Speaking after EU heads of government held several hours of talks, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, said there was no question of the constitution being re-negotiated.

However, Mr Juncker also said we could not pretend that nothing had happened and what was required was a period of reflection, stocktaking and debate.

He suggested that those member states who were holding referendums needed more time to explain the benefits of the constitution than those countries using the parliamentary method.

Ultimately, Mr Juncker said, all EU member states had agreed that the constitution was the right answer to many of the questions citizens in Europe were asking themselves.


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