Minister for Foreign Affairs Emphasises Necessity of Nice Treaty for Enlargement
At the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels yesterday the EU Commissioner in charge of Enlargement negotiations , Commissioner Verheugen presented his annual report on Enlargement.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen T.D., said that on the basis of the Commission's report, it is now clear that negotiations with no fewer than ten applicants are very likely to conclude at the same time. Thus the "big bang" scenario is highly likely. The aim is that the new members would all join the EU in time to participate in the June 2004 European Parliament elections - that is, during Ireland's next EU Presidency.
During the referendum campaign, there were those on the No side who argued that the Union could, under the Amsterdam Protocol, admit up to five new members without Treaty change. I understand that at a meeting of the Forum in Dublin yesterday the Danish MEP, Mr Jens -Peter Bonde continued to advance that proposition. The Government, like our EU partners, did not and does not accept it. However, either way, based on Commissioner Verheugen's report this contention is now redundant, as many more than five new Members are on course to come in together, based on the Commissioner's report.
This underscores the reality that the Treaty of Nice is necessary for enlargement and that it needs to be ratified by the end of next year.
It is now crystal clear that the practical effect of a failure to ratify Nice would inevitably be to place a serious obstacle in the way of enlargement - which is precisely what the No side say they wish to avoid.