Merkel talks EU Treaty on first official visit to Ireland

Other News Materials 14 April 2008 23:43 (UTC +04:00)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met her Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern in Dublin Monday for talks on the EU Reform Treaty aimed at streamlining EU decision-making ahead of an Irish referendum on the treaty. ( dpa )

"I am here today to ask the Irish people to vote for the treaty," Merkel said after the meeting.

Ireland is the only EU member to vote in a referendum to ratify the treaty. The popular vote is scheduled for June 12.

The reform treaty, a replacement for the defunct EU constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, would bring benefits even to the sceptics who oppose it, Merkel said.

"There will be no European super state," she said.

Merkel, who is widely respected in Ireland, also met with Irish President Mary McAleese earlier Monday.

Her visit was not without controversy. The anti-treaty Libertas group has accused the government and opposition Fine Gael party of reneging on a previous pledge to discourage foreign visitors during the referendum campaign.

"Now, however, we are seeing on a weekly basis a parade of European leaders being flown in for photo-ops, issuing carefully worded statements approved by the Yes campaign which are shamelessly designed to scare the Irish people into supporting this treaty," Libertas chairman Declan Ganley said on Sunday.

If Ireland rejects the treaty in June, it will have to be completely reviewed.

A yes vote is still by no means certain with the most recent opinion polls showing a large number of undecided voters.

The Irish already delivered a shock to the EU when they voted against the Nice Treaty in 2001, a decision reversed in a later referendum.

Recent comments by French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde about fixing a common corporate tax policy across the union have struck fear in Irish hearts: much of the Celtic Tiger's success at attracting investment has been due to its low 12.5-per-cent corporate tax rate.

It was also feared the electorate would vote no to show its disapproval of Ahern, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal. Ahern's decision to step down in May has removed the so-called "Bertie factor."

This is the first visit by a German chancellor to Ireland since former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited the country during the Irish presidency of the European Union in 2004, the statement said.

Ahern met with Merkel on May 31, 2007, in Berlin.