Nicolas Sarkozy is going to Dublin for a few hours on Monday.Â Â Going by the Elysee website, his agenda for Barack Obama’s visit on Wednesday is far clearer than for his visit to Ireland.Â Â On what is ostensibly a listening tour to understand the reasons for Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty, the signals are already strong that he is there to urge a second referendum on the Treaty if Ireland wants to continue participate as an equal with the 26 other EU member states.Â But the timing of the revote is tricky.Â Here is the key answer given by him to the Irish Times (responses to written submitted questions) —
I said that I wanted to be able to propose a solution or at least a method during the October or December European Council meeting. Why? Not to impose a timetable on anyone, but simply because Europeans need to know on what basis they will be electing their representatives to the European Parliament. These elections will be held in June 2009 and need to be organised several months in advance. We cannot ignore this constraint which binds us all: whether the Nice Treaty remains in effect or the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, we must elect a new Parliament in June 2009 and appoint a new Commission in October of the same year. We will need to know a little in advance under which legal system, Nice or Lisbon, we will be making these decisions. It is the role of the Presidency to prepare to meet these deadlines; naturally we will respect the Irish vote in so doing.
In other words, he expects (not unreasonably) that people need to know under what basis they are electing a European Parliament next year, meaning that whether it’s the Nice or Lisbon TreatyÂ would need to be clarified by Spring, and governments need to know under what basis a European Commission is being selected, meaning by Autumn 2009.Â Thus in his view, these are the two windows within which Lisbon can be reconsidered, otherwise Nice remains the institutional framework.
The implicit contingency is that if Ireland can’t or won’t have a referendum on either of those dates, then the post-2009 options are bleak.Â Croatia and other aspiring EU members would then have to be admitted, in theory, under Nice rules, but with the big EU powers having already declared that the EU can’t be run on a further enlarged basis under Nice.Â And by that time, it’s likely that 25 or 26 countries will have ratified Lisbon and will perhaps wonder why they can’t run the Union under those rules.Â
So Ireland will get a two part message: ratify Lisbon before the next Commission is nominated, and preferably before the European elections, and you get to keep your commissioner and we all quickly forget this messy business.Â Or stall all the way through next year and expect toÂ be increasingly out in the cold from then on.Â
As this Irish Times analysis accompanying the Sarko interview explains, the Irish government would much prefer an Autumn 2009 referendum, because a Spring referendum willÂ generate momentum for the No parties into the June EuropeanÂ Parliament elections.Â But if theyÂ feel that a referendum can’t be won at all, the options are either a parliamentaryÂ ratification, which will inflame NoÂ voters, or the undiscovered country of a 26+1 EU.Â Let’s hope Sarko is on his bestÂ behaviour on Monday.Â Maybe he should bring Carla.