Ireland and Poland stall on fate of constitution

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The Independent Online

Ireland and Poland were keeping their options open on whether to hold referendums on the European constitution yesterday, anxious not to kill off the treaty before an EU summit next week.

Ireland and Poland were keeping their options open on whether to hold referendums on the European constitution yesterday, anxious not to kill off the treaty before an EU summit next week.

The Irish Foreign Minister, Brian Cowan, said the constitution was in Europe and Ireland's interests and that the country would "continue preparations" to vote on it. But no date has been set, and the Irish government has promised to take into account the outcome of next week's meeting of EU heads of government which will discuss the crisis caused by French and Dutch voters' rejection of the constitution.

Germany and France are to lead calls for the ratification process to continue. But EU leaders are expected to settle for a compromise, keeping alive the possibility that the constitution will come into force eventually, but giving flexibility to countries as to when to proceed with ratification.

The Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, said Poland should not set a date for the vote until after the summit. He said the summit "may decide to give ourselves a few months and meet [again] when we are better prepared", adding: "A lack of a decision is also a decision." One option is to hold the vote on 9 October, when Poland elects a president, but that would bring the risk that domestic political issues could hijack the constitution campaign.

Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, is committed to a referendum on 10 July. The Czech government has already called for a delay to the process and the Danish government remains ambiguous. Opinion polls show a rise in the "no" vote in most countries.

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