European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has paid
a visit to Ireland in a move seen as an attempt to rally support
for pro-EU forces ahead of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon
Treaty on 12 June.
Speaking at the National Forum of Europe, Barroso said he
had not come here to "try to tell you how to vote". However,
he expressed his hope that Irish citizens would vote in favour
of the new Treaty. "The eyes of Europe - if not the world
- will be on you on 12 June" - the EU chief said, referring
to the fact that, for the treaty to enter into force, it will require
ratification by all 27 member states. Ireland is the only
EU member state set to hold a referendum on this issue.
The latest poll revealed 60% of the Irish were still undecided
on how to vote, with only 28% 'certain' to vote in
favour of the new Treaty (Click
Referring to Irish sensibilities over their corporate tax
policy, Barroso stressed that its tax sovereignty would not
be affected by the new Treaty. "No member state - either under
the current rules or under the Lisbon Treaty - can be obliged
to accept a tax proposal to which it objects" - he said.
Meanwhile, some 10,000 farmers were protesting in the streets
of Dublin against EU trade liberalisation - which, they claim,
will destroy the industry. Industry representatives made it
clear that the outcome of the negotiations by Trade Commissioner
Peter Mandelson at a UN Conference in May will have a huge
impact on the way farmers vote on the Lisbon Treaty. "Sell
us out and we will have our say on the 12th of June" - IFA
President Padraig Walshe told the rally.
However, Barroso emphasised the need to conclude talks on
a new world trade agreement, saying it would be in the interest
of Irish farmers to see a quick resolution.
The main changes the Lisbon Treaty makes are -
- A full-time chairman (President, if you speak French)
of the European Council - the summit of leaders. Up until
now, the post rotates among the different states every six
months. If the new treaty is passed, the prime ministers
and presidents will chose one of their number to organise
their business on a full-time basis for a two-and-a-half
year period (renewable for a further term if they do a good
- Establishing a new foreign policy figure for the EU, who
will work for both the European Council (i.e. the member
states) and the European Commission (who have a large budget
and staff for areas such as development aid and disaster
In the EU constitution, this figure was known as the Foreign
Minister - in the Lisbon treaty they get the title High
Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The idea of both new positions is to give the EU a higher
profile on the world stage.
- A new system of voting for the member states when they
are making laws. A law will be passed if 55% of member states
- representing at least 65% of the population of the EU
- agree. This is what is known as Qualified Majority Voting
- Expands the number of policy areas in which decisions
will be taken by majority voting (instead of unanimity).
- Gives a new role to national parliaments to get them more
involved in the process of making EU laws.
- Gives legal effect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights
- a comprehensive listing of human, civil, social and economic
rights for EU citizens.
To download a consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty from
the Institute for European Affairs - Click