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Germany and France increase pressure on Cowen
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Germany and France have warned they will block any further EU enlargement until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, heaping extra pressure on the Government to run a second referendum on the treaty.

The announcement by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel, who both oppose Turkey's bid to join the union, could affect Croatia, which is scheduled to join in 2010.

"For enlargement we need Lisbon. Without Lisbon we go back to Nice," said Mr Sarkozy at the EU summit in Brussels, where last week's Irish No vote to the Lisbon Treaty was the main item on the agenda.

Dr Merkel agreed with Mr Sarkozy that the EU's existing treaties would not enable the union to expand beyond its 27 members. "I agree because the Nice Treaty limited the union to a membership of 27 states and for me it is unthinkable that we would change one area of the Nice Treaty without looking at the whole of the Lisbon Treaty," she said.

She refused to comment on whether Croatia or any of the other states in the volatile western Balkan region would be allowed to join in the future. Under EU rules all 27 member states must unanimously agree to accept new members.

The joint declaration by Mr Sarkozy and Dr Merkel prompted a tough response from supporters of enlargement, such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

"The Irish vote should in no way be related to the enlargement," said Polish prime minister Donald Tusk. "Enlargement is definitely not impossible without the Lisbon Treaty. Some leaders state this as condition but we don't see it that way."

The block imposed by Paris and Berlin could persuade supporters of enlargement to pressurise Mr Cowen to have the Lisbon Treaty ratified by Ireland. The Taoiseach accepted that a number of his fellow prime ministers had made it clear they had no interest in reopening the text of the treaty. He told a press conference that many of them were very concerned and perplexed at the outcome of the Irish referendum.

"Frankly, many of them found it hard to understand how Ireland could reject a treaty which they see as improving the functioning of the union and redressing perceived difficulties of democratic accountability," he said.

Mr Cowen said he could not overstate how much many of the other EU states considered the Lisbon Treaty to be vital to the ability of the EU to function in the interests of all their citizens.

Answering questions from journalists, the Taoiseach refused to speculate on the nature of the Irish response or the timetable in which it would emerge. He said he was not going to prejudge what would emerge but would enter into the process honestly.

But Ireland is not the only state that is facing challenges in ratifying the treaty. The Czech delegation at the summit held up agreement on a final statement. This was due to its unhappiness with a draft statement calling on ratification to continue across the Union despite the Irish No vote.

The problem was resolved by adding a footnote stating that the Czech constitutional court was currently reviewing the issue.

Ratification is on hold in the Czech parliament after upper house senators opposed to the treaty sent it for review to the constitutional court.


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