6 - 12 June, 2001

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Irish ‘nay’ vote may stall Malta’s EU membership

By a staff reporterIf the Irish people vote against Ireland’s ratification of the Nice Treaty in tomorrow’s referendum, the Treaty will be stalled having severe repercussions on the enlargement process.

Speaking to The Business Times, the head of the Malta-EU Information Centre (MIC), Dr Simon Busuttil said that Treaty changes require unanimous consent by all countries. The Nice Treaty, agreed between applicant countries in December last year, laid out the institutional changes required by the EU to cater for the next enlargement process.

Dr Busuttil said, "it is enough for one country to say ‘no’ for the whole process to be stalled, because in this regard each country has an equal say."

He continued, "if the ‘no vote’ prevails tomorrow, Malta’s EU membership bid risks being slowed down, if not blocked, unless the Irish impasse is solved."

According to the last opinion poll published by the Irish Times, the referendum result is expected to be a close one. The poll revealed that over recent weeks there has been a significant movement from the ‘yes’ to the ‘no’ camp.

The Irish Times poll shows 45% are in favour of the Nice Treaty and 28% against. In a previous poll the ‘yes’ vote was 7% higher and the ‘no’ vote was 7% less. The number of people not knowing how to vote remained unchanged at 27%.

Dr Busuttil explained that when the Danes had rejected the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in a similar referendum in 1992, Denmark was given a number of opt-outs. "The treaty was again resubmitted to a referendum and it was approved by some two-thirds of the electorate," Dr Busuttil added.

The Bishops of Ireland last week, came out in favour of ratification of the Nice Treaty. They said, "there seemed to be a stronger case for the treaty than against and voting ‘no’ would change the direction of Ireland’s positive involvement in Europe."

The ‘no’ camp is highly organised and brings together workers’ organisations, farmers, the Green Party, Irish nationalists and other independent activists who do not want Irleand to lose out to Brussels.

The anti-Nice campaign also had a Maltese flavour to it when former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was quoted by the Irish Times as issuing "a plea on behalf of the Maltese people" for a ‘no’ vote. The CNI leader, said that the Nice Treaty was "prejudicial" to applicant countries such as Malta and expressed his hope that the Irish people would do Malta a favour by voting ‘no’.



The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt