EU and Canada to move towards Strategic Partnership in 2009

The EU’s leading officials and Canada’s  prime minister have agreed to launch a process that could lead to the establishment of a wide-ranging economic partnership. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France signed an agreement on the 17th of October to begin negotiations for a free trade pact between Canada and the European Union. Two-way trade is estimated to increase 22.9% by 2014.

At a news conference, Mr. Harper said, “We must stand against protectionism and work to lower and eliminate barriers.”

The trade agreement is likely to include issues such as improving bilateral investment, labour mobility, technological co-operation, intellectual property protection and the controversial issue of opening up procurement tenders by provincial governments to outside competition.

Therefore, the proposed partnership would go a great deal further than the North-American Free Trade Association, (NAFTA). In addition to allowing free trade in goods and services, it would harmonize regulations, and open up the air-travel market; “open skies”. It would also free the labor market allowing skilled workers to travel across the Atlantic.

Negotiations will start sometime in 2009 after a preliminary study is completed, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on 17 October.



France had Working Plan to deal with Irish Lisbon Referendum Defeat by July 13th

<!– @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –>

Mr Sarkozy takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July and will be tasked with resurrecting, for a second time, Lisbon Treaty proposals first contained in the European Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters three years ago.

Diplomats and officials have no intention of letting the Irish no vote sink a blueprint to boost the EU’s powers on the international stage and to create a President of Europe.

Gordon Brown phoned Paris to promise Mr Sarkozy that Britain will ignore Ireland and continue parliamentary ratification of the EU Treaty. Britain formally  ratified the Lisbon Treaty on July 16th 2008.

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the French Europe Minister, hinted that Paris already has a legal “fix”, such as plans revealed in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, to keep the EU Treaty alive.

“The most important thing is that the ratification process must continue in the other countries and then we shall see with the Irish what type of legal arrangement could be found,” he said.

“We must remain within the framework of the Lisbon treaty.”

Eight countries are still engaged in parliamentary ratification of the Treaty but are expected to have finished, without any upsets by the autumn.

Plans to find a “mechanism” keeping Ireland within the EU but temporarily outside the Lisbon Treaty will then be tabled at an October or December meeting of Europe’s leaders.

“Ireland must not stop the process of getting the Treaty through. Then we can take stock,” said a diplomat close to negotiations.

Brian Cowen, the Irish Taoiseach, is expected to support the calls for ratification to continue in other countries and to plead that Ireland is not left behind.

There are advanced plans in Brussels for a “bridging mechanism” to allow Ireland to be removed from the list of signatories to the Lisbon Treaty after the EU’s 26 other member states have ratified it.’

Ireland will continue to remain in the euro and be covered by existing Treaties but will be left out of the creation of an EU president and foreign minister, which would proceed as planned.

By late 2009 or early 2010, when Croatia joins the EU, an amending “Accession Treaty” will be signed by all members including Dublin.

Incorporated into it would be a series of protocol texts giving paper “opt-outs” on controversial Irish EU issues, such as taxation powers or greater military co-operation.

Ireland, like the rest of the Europe, does not hold referendums on EU enlargement treaties and with new protocol opt-outs Dublin may get the Treaty past the Irish parliament without another popular vote.


Nicolas Sarkozy plans to bypass Irish no vote

By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
13th June 2008 Telegraph
UK sidesteps courts to ratify Lisbon Treaty

July 17, 2008

Is a Second Referendum in Ireland on the Cards?

Ireland must hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty, Nicolas Sarkozy told colleagues on July 16th, 2008 in the clearest sign of a European Union plan to try to save the document ratified by 21 other countries.

A second vote would have to take place in an attempt to reverse Ireland’s rejection of the treaty in June by a margin of 53.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent, the French President told MPs from his party at a private meeting.

Mr Sarkozy, who is acting as President of the EU while France holds its presidency for six months, has denied in public that there is a secret plan to force a second vote and has said that the solution must be proposed by the Irish Government at the next EU summit in October. “The Irish will have to vote again,” he Details emerged in Paris of a plan to stage a rerun of the vote backed by guarantees that Ireland will keep its EU commissioner as well as its military neutrality, its veto over tax policy and its right to set its abortion laws.

Pressure on Ireland has been increased by the continuing pace of ratification by other parliaments. Britain passed the document the weekafter the Irish “no” vote, followed by Cyprus, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The treaty, which was intended to streamline decision-making in an enlarged EU, cannot be implemented until it is ratified by all member states. It has yet to be passed by the parliaments of the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain and Sweden, and is awaiting formal presidential signature in Germany and Poland.

Senior EU politicians have called for a second vote in the spring because they want to conduct next June’s European Parliament elections under the more streamlined rules.

An official in Paris confirmed that Mr Sarkozy made the remark, while the French President’s office declined to comment. Mr Sarkozy’s office said that he would not present a plan to the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen. “The President is coming to listen to the Irish, to listen to what Brian Cowen tells him. He is not coming to make proposals,” one adviser to Mr Sarkozy said.


“President Sarkozy demands second Irish referendum on EU treaty” – TimesOnLine:

US – European friendship Exercise in June marred by Ireland’s No to Lisbon according to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): Ireland the “skunk at the party”

Charles A. Kupchan, the Council on Foreign Relations’s (CFR) Europe expert, stated that President Bush’s June farewell trip to Europe produced statements of friendship and partnership “hard to imagine a few short years ago.” The Council on Foreign Relations is a nonpartisan foreign policy membership organization founded in 1921 and based at 58 East 68th Street (corner Park Avenue) in New York City, with an additional office in Washington, D.C. Many believe it to be the most powerful private organization to influence United States foreign policy. It publishes the bi-monthly journal Foreign Affairs. It has an extensive website, other programs and projects, publications, history, biographies of notable directors and other board members, corporate members, and press releases.

Kupchan, a Georgetown University professor who headed European Affairs at the Clinton National Security Council, credits a concerted effort in Bush’s second term to repair transatlantic relations. Kupchan also stated that Ireland’s rejection of the new Treaty of Lisbon, was a serious setback to European leaders.

The interviewer was Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR Website.

Key Extracts from the Interview:

Gwertzman: “President Bush had a farewell trip to Europe this past week, which seemed to go pretty well.”

Kupchan: “Well, I think you’re right to give Bush’s visit a passing grade. The visits with various European leaders went pretty well, and there were statements of friendship and partnership that would not have happened a few years ago.”

Gwertzman: ‘Is this due to a change in Bush?’

Kupchan: ‘It’s really a product of the mending of fences that has taken place in Bush’s second term. The Bush administration realized that it had made a hash of the transatlantic partnership during its first term, and it has spent a great deal of time and energy trying to repair that partnership, with some results. Certainly we are not back to where we were during the pre-Bush era, but we also have climbed back from the abyss in relations that surrounded the Iraq war. And I think it’s quite noticeable that protests that took place in Europe were few in number and muted, whereas a few years ago, thousands of people would turn out to protest against Bush. And it’s also safe to say that accomplishments were achieved. I wouldn’t call them breakthroughs, but incremental steps forward on policy toward Iran, on some new troop commitments, and financing for Afghanistan.’

Gwertzman: ‘That was from the British, I guess, primarily? The Germans, also?’

Kupchan: ‘No, the Germans have not stepped forward on Afghanistan and I do not expect them to do so. They are having enough trouble sustaining political support for the current mission, not to mention expanding the mission. The British agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan. And when Bush was in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi indicated that he would like to reduce the caveats on Italian troops. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.’

Gwertzman: ‘The caveats are that they can’t get engaged in fighting?’

Kupchan: ‘There are caveats on the location of Italian troops and on the nature of the missions in which they engage. In fact, most NATO countries have such caveats. And so the questions would be, would Italian troops actually get engaged in the major fighting in the south and in the east? What kinds of restrictions on mission and location is Berlusconi talking about? It’s too soon to answer those questions.’

Gwertzman: ‘While Bush was in Europe, of course, voters in Ireland rejected reforms to the Treaty of Lisbon, putting into doubt whether the Europeans are ever going to get this unity document they’re looking for. How did that happen? Why would the Irish reject this Lisbon treaty when eighteen European countries have already approved it?’

Kupchan: ‘The main reason that Ireland is the spoiler—the skunk at the party—is that by virtue of a clause in the Irish constitution, the Irish government was obligated to take the Lisbon treaty to a public referendum. All other EU members plan to approve the treaty only through parliamentary ratification. I think it’s safe to say that, were other countries to hold public referenda, the treaty probably would fail elsewhere as well. So it’s not that Ireland is different from the other EU countries when it comes to support for the Lisbon treaty. It’s that it’s the only country to have a public vote. The issues that led to the “No” victory were similar to those that led to the “No” victories in the Netherlands and France earlier when they voted on the then-European constitution.’

Gwertzman: ‘What are these?’

Kupchan: ‘They include a fear of the loss of national power to Brussels and concern that an elite-driven process of European integration lacks democratic legitimacy. I think one particular concern the Irish have that is less acute elsewhere is on the defense front. The Irish have always prided themselves on being a neutral country. And their concern is that, if you have a single foreign minister for Europe, and an attempt to create a common defense policy, that Ireland would be dragged into something that looks like a formal military alliance. This was a source of concern to many Irish voters. Also, despite the fact that the Lisbon treaty was much shorter and less dense than the ill-fated constitution, it is still a lot to swallow. And for the average Irish citizen, it was seen as a lot of mumbo-jumbo, not something that had direct relevance to their daily lives. In sum, it’s a very serious setback for the EU to have a constitution rejected in 2005, and then the Lisbon treaty rejected after a behemoth effort, to overcome the earlier defeat. This is really a very serious blow. Thus far, the EU officials in Brussels and the leaders of the EU don’t know what they’re going to do next.’

Gwertzman: ‘From the U.S. perspective, has the United States supported this idea of a united Europe? Or is it happy to see the Europeans still a little divided?’

Kupchan: ‘If you had asked that question four years ago, I would have said that the American foreign policy class, particularly on the right and center right, would have reacted with quiet glee to this failure of the Lisbon treaty. Especially in the wake of the Iraq war, the view from Washington was that a weaker Europe is better than a stronger Europe, because it enables the United States to cherry pick allies—the British, the Italians, the Spaniards, the pro-war coalition. Had there been a common defense policy, Bush might have faced an EU that simply said “no” to the Iraq war, rather than just having the French, the Germans, and other countries reject it. I think that that attitude toward Europe is for the most part gone. Across most of the political spectrum in Washington, there is a view that the stronger the EU is the better off the Untied States will be.’

Gwertzman: ‘Going back to Bush’s trip, I suppose he’s been helped out by the new leaders in Germany, France, and Italy.’

Kupchan: ‘No question. You have Berlusconi in Rome, Angela Merkel in Berlin, and Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. You have about as pro-American leadership as you can ask for in key European capitals. I would say Gordon Brown continues to keep his distance from Bush, as Tony Blair, his predecessor, paid a heavy price for being seen as a toady of Washington. That attitude is not reflected at the public level, however. If you look, for example, at the numbers that came out from the Pew poll last week, they suggest a slight uptick in attitudes toward the United States in Europe, but generally unfavorable views of America and American foreign policy in most European countries. And so, public opinion is lagging behind lead opinion. And one key question for the future is: how much difference will a change in U.S. leadership make?’

Gwertzman: ‘What’s your answer?’

Kupchan: ‘Well, judging by the Obama-mania that is sweeping Europe, I think there’s no question that an Obama victory would lead to a real surge in pro-American sentiment across the EU. A McCain presidency, less so, but I think he is seen as a more centrist Republican than Bush, so there would be a sigh of relief, I think, even if McCain were to win, but nothing of the sort that would accompany an Obama victory. But then reality would set in. After the partying would be over, the two sides of the Atlantic would have to get down to hard work. And there, I think the glass will be partly half full and partly half empty, in that some areas, particularly on climate change, I expect the United States to move much closer to the European view, especially under Obama but probably under McCain as well. But on other issues, such as Iraq and Iran, there may well be not as much of a closure of the minds as some people might hope.’

Gwertzman: ‘I guess Gordon Brown’s announcement today that they were going to put sanctions on Bank Melli, the big Iranian bank, was significant.’

Kupchan: ‘The lay of the land appears to be the following. The EU and the U.S. are prepared to make one more run at negotiations with Iranians. That package was put forward to Tehran over the weekend by the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. And it appears to have been rejected by Iran right off the bat. It was predicated upon a suspension of enrichment of uranium. But, from what we can gather, there are discussions that are continuing. The plan that appears to be taking shape is that the United States and its EU partners would move forward outside the context of the U.N. Security Council. In other words, they would not be going back to the U.N. for a fourth resolution. They would rely upon the existing three resolutions to take independent steps to clamp down on Iranian financing, and to shut down on the ability of Iranian banks which finance projects inside Iran. And that is part of the rationale for Brown’s announcement about freezing the assets of a major bank. You know, the Iranians have already taken some steps to deal with this. Last week, they began to move their assets to Asian banks and to commodities, like gold. And so, it’s unclear whether a kind-of banking sanctions regime would have the same effect that it did, for example, on North Korea. It helped convince Pyongyang to negotiate. Iran has more financial options than did North Korea.’


Bush Second Term Repairs Damage to European Relations

June 16th, 2008

Second Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty promoted at Oireachtas level

MEP Gay Mitchell has questioned whether the Irish people should ever again be asked to adjudicate on complex European issues.

The Fine Gael MEP asked whether a referendum was “the right vehicle” for issues such as the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

“People will say that he would say that, because he was on the losing side,” Mr Mitchell told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs on Thursday, 3rd July 2008.

But he argued that now was “the time to lift the rock” on all matters. “We have to ask ourselves about this form of instrument of public policy,” Mr Mitchell said. “Is a referendum the right vehicle?”

The Government had accepted the good faith of the Attorney General that a plebiscite was necessary on Lisbon, but Mr Mitchell said he doubted it was necessary for the whole document to be put to the people.

Some of the treaty could have been cleared by legislation, he said, and the rest put to the popular vote. He called for the Attorney General’s advice on the subject to be made available to the joint committee on European scrutiny.

He added: “The last thing we need now is (French) President (Nicolas) Sarkozy riding into town with instructions and advice. What we need now is reflection by the Irish people themselves.”

He also claimed that RTE’s coverage of the Lisbon Treaty referendum was unintentionally unfair and called for an independent review of the role of the state broadcaster in its coverage of important issues.

“I really do believe that RTE’s performance as a public service provider needs to be independently analysed.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin told the same committee, however, the Government does not tend to publish the Attorney General’s view on matters before Cabinet. It was a long-standing precedent, he said.

Mr Martin said he believed in the referendum as a means of democratically determining the popular will.

“I think it is a Constitutional imperative anyway,” he added.

“Just because you lose one doesn’t mean you have to question the whole format.”

He said he didn’t think Mr Sarkozy intended to visit Ireland this month in the method suggested by MEP Mitchell. “I believe his commitment is genuine to resolve the difficulty.”

Mr Mitchell called for an analysis of the effectiveness of the Referendum Commission, and that of the Forum on Europe, which was not communicating “beyond a certain elite”.

Mr Martin said he personally thought the Referendum Commission had a reasonably good campaign.

France moves to intregrate EU Defence Capabilities

French Defence Minister Hervé Morin has announced a strategy to increase the EU’s military capabilities during his country’s presidency of the union.

He also stated that France had no hidden agenda to undermine Nato and pledged that it would rejoin the organisation’s military command structure.

Any hesitation expressed by some states in the past that there was a hidden agenda to undermine Nato [by developing EU defence] is gone . . . that contradiction has been overcome,” said Mr Morin in a speech to members of the European People’s Party and European Democrats group in Paris.

Mr Morin said he had toured EU capitals and had found a real consensus emerging and a will to relaunch EU defence. He said states in central and eastern Europe, which had joined the western military alliance, were now viewing EU defence as a priority issue.

Under its presidency France will push to update the European Security Strategy – the key policy document that sets out the goals and limitations for European security and defence policy. Mr Morin said this should move from being a mere intellectual exchange to a rigorous analysis of security and also demonstrate the need to build EU military capabilities.

He said EU states should be invited to develop a network of surveillance satellites and build a common fleet of aircraft carriers that the EU could draw on to transport aircraft as support for troops deployed on missions.

The US spends six times as much as the EU on research of military technologies, he said, and there was a need to redress this balance so Europe would not fall further behind.

The EU also needs to develop further joint training exercises to enable troops to communicate and work together more efficiently. One idea that France will push during its presidency is for a military Erasmus-type scheme where troops can train in other EU states.

German secretary of state for defence Christian Schmidt acknowledged that the Irish vote against the Lisbon treaty had caused the defence agenda to slip somewhat.

But he stated that the principle should still remain that some EU member states could choose to move ahead with policies while others wouldn’t have to. President of the European Parliament Hans Gert Pöttering told delegates it was important that neutral states would not be forced to move ahead on EU defence unless they chose to do so.


French President Sarkozy to postpone official visit to Ireland

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that he is to postpone a planned visit to Ireland to discuss the EU Lisbon Treaty.

Mr Sarkozy, who has so far refused to be drawn on whether there should be a second Irish vote on the Lisbon Treaty, was scheduled to visit on 11th July. He will now visit on 21st July.

His office cited the president’s heavy schedule as the reason for the change.

In a related development, the French Ambassador to Ireland has said the Lisbon Treaty will not be be re-written at October’s EU Summit.

Yvon Roe d’Albert told the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs that ‘once was enough’.

He was responding to a question from Labour’s Joe Costello who said it appeared there was going to be a re-run of the treaty rather than a new treaty.

Deputy Costello said it seemed there was one law in Europe for large countries and another for smaller ones.

Mr Costello went on to say that when Ireland rejected the Nice Referendum there was a re-run, but there was no question of a re-run when two larger countries, France and the Netherlands rejected the Treaty in 2005.

The French Ambassador said there was no division between larger states and small countries. About the Lisbon Treaty, he said it was not exactly the same situation, as France the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution, which was more difficult and involved sovereignty.

Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski told a Polish newspaper that it would be pointless to sign the EU’s Lisbon Treaty following its rejection in last month’s Irish referendum.

The Polish parliament voted in April 2008 to ratify the treaty, but it needs the signature of the president to become law.

Asked if he would sign the treaty, Mr Kaczynski said: ‘This is now pointless. But it is difficult to say how this whole thing will end.’

Mr Kaczynski said it was difficult to foresee the end of the ratification crisis prompted by the Irish No vote, which raised doubts about whether the treaty could be put into effect next year as planned.

In the newspaper interview, Mr Kaczynski compared the bloc’s situation to 2005 when the French and Dutch voters rejected a more ambitious EU Constitution, which was later reworked into the Lisbon Treaty.

The European Commission has reminded Warsaw of its commitment to ratify the EU treaty.

A European Commission spokeswoman stressed that EU leaders agreed that the ratification process continues following the Irish No vote.

The development is seen as putting further pressure on Presidency Sarkozy, whose government took over the six-month rotating EU presidency on July 1st.

‘The bloc functioned, functions and will go on functioning. It’s not perfect but such a complicated structure cannot be perfect,’ he said.

However, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has endorsed the European Commission’s opinion that ratification must continue.