Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
111. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his preferred options for the future development of the European Union with particular reference to the way in which it is intended to ratify the Constitution; the extent to which he has conveyed his opinion in this regard to his colleagues at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19657/06]
Following last year’s French and Dutch referendum results, EU leaders initiated a period of reflection in order to allow time for national debates about the future of Europe. Next month’s European Council is due to review this process. EU Foreign Ministers have already begun the task of preparing this review and will meet informally in Austria at the weekend. There will be a further discussion of the Constitution and the Future of Europe at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 and 13 June. At this stage, it is clear that the time is not yet right for resolving the issues impeding the ratification of the Constitution and that it will be necessary to extend the period of reflection into next year. The Member States need to continue to work together to create conditions conducive to the Constitution’s ultimate entry into force.
At this point, it is not feasible to set a firm timetable for the ratification of the Constitution. It is important to note, however, that a majority of Member States have now ratified the Constitution. On 9 May, Estonia became the 15th Member State to do so. Finland is expected to ratify in the near future.
While there are inevitably varying views about the European Union’s future direction, Ireland continues to be a firm supporter of the European Constitution. We see the Constitution as the best-available blueprint for the further development of the Union. Its entry into force would create a more efficient and effective Union, capable of meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing world. I have outlined our position of support for the Constitution at every opportunity and will continue to do so. In the wake of the French and Dutch results, we have witnessed a lively debate about the Future of Europe, but no-one has put forward a convincing alternative to the Constitution.
113. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the need to establish a convention for the future of Europe to draw up a new EU constitution following the rejection by France and the Netherlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19737/06]
139. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether a new EU constitution should be put to EU member states on the same day by way of a Europe-wide referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19738/06]
222. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of discussions taking place at EU level with the object of amending, ratifying or replacing the EU Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20017/06]
While the time is not yet right to complete the ratification of the EU Constitution, I can see no grounds at present for embarking on any renegotiation of what was agreed in 2004. There have been some proposals for selective implementation of the Constitution, but the widely held view is that the Constitution, which has already been ratified by 15 Member States, needs to be kept intact.
Agreement on the Constitution was arrived at following a long and complex set of negotiations, beginning with the work of the Convention and concluding during Ireland’s EU Presidency. It is unlikely that a new Convention, or a fresh Inter-Governmental negotiation, would produce a significantly different outcome acceptable to all Member States.
Member States must ratify EU Treaties in accordance with their own constitutional requirements and in a timeframe that suits their individual national circumstances. It remains our view that the Constitution can and should be brought into force once the conditions are right. We hope that significant progress in this direction will be possible in 2007 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
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