“It is either Lisbon or Nice..”

The Dáil voted itself on holiday today, until September 24th, which might give Taoiseach Brian Cowen time to work out what happens next in Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy never did get round to visiting the Republic of Ireland in the aftermath of the Lisbon Treaty referendum but he has just opened France’s six month presidency of the EU by laying out some stark choices ahead.

Mr Sarkozy said the choice was either to stick with the Lisbon Treaty or revert to the old Nice Treaty, which the Lisbon Treaty replaces. The problem with the Nice Treaty, Mr Sarkozy said, was that it implied no further expansion of the EU without the streamlined EU decision-making arrangements which the Lisbon Treaty introduces.

“It is not for a Frenchman to judge the Irish ‘No’. We must not offend our Irish colleagues but we need to know under what Treaty we are going to organise the Euro-elections in 2009 – either the Lisbon treaty or the Nice Treaty” said Mr Sarkozy.

The report continues

“It is either Lisbon or Nice – there can be no more institutional conferences,” he said referring to the IGCs which are the forum for treaty negotiations.

He also said he thought it was wrong to put such as issue to a referendum in the first place. To applause from MEPs, he commented: “Institutional things are for members of parliament, rather than referendums – it’s a political choice and perfectly democratic.”

He added that without reformed institutions, the EU could not enlarge beyond its current 27 members, even though it would continue negotiations with Croatia, the next candidate in line. He said he would propose a solution for the reform treaty this year in consultation with Ireland’s leaders.

“The French presidency will propose a method and, I hope, a solution either in October or in December,” Mr Sarkozy said.

Mr Sarkozy said he would visit Ireland on July 21st to sound out political leaders on a way forward for the treaty.

A separate report adds this

French president Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out a two-tier European Union today following Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

He said no member of the European “family” could be left behind – but further expansion of the 27-nation Union was out of the question unless the Lisbon Treaty was kept on track.

Adds Over at the Telegraph Blog Conservative MEP for South East England, Daniel Hannan, has some thoughts about what might be being planned

My guess is that there will be an attempt to pare down the text and push it through the Dáil, claiming that the amended version is somehow still the Lisbon Treaty. In other words, Ireland will seek to sidestep the referendum requirement (which comes from a 1987 court ruling, rather than being an intrinsic property of the 1937 constitution). Several Irish Europhiles are already agitating for a “review” of the Attorney General’s ruling that the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty should trigger a plebiscite. I’d say this is that this is what Sarko and Biffo are working towards.

Hmm.. I’m not sure how they could alter the text without having to re-ratify elsewhere..

Meanwhile Belgium ratifies the Lisbon treaty.