PLANS TO SOLVE the European debt crisis being put forward by Brussels include options which would avert the need for an Irish referendum, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has confirmed.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, the Taoiseach said policy papers put forward by European Council president Herman van Rompuy included the potential for “serious and significant changes without having a substantial treaty change”.
Van Rompuy’s plans have been circulated to EU heads of government ahead of their two-day summit, beginning tomorrow. The summit is seen as the last chance for the EU to stop the euro from eventual collapse.
Kenny told independent TD Shane Ross that Van Rompuy’s paper also outlined the areas of the current EU treaties which would need to be amended, if leaders agreed to pursue a programme of amending them.
Proposals to avoid a full-blown treaty change would avoid the need for a referendum in Ireland – which would be seen as the most obvious stumbling block to an adoption of a new treaty.
As a result, the new rules are not likely to see the creation of a fully-fledged central fiscal government – as the transfer of ‘competencies’, or government powers, from member states to Brussels would require a full treaty.
Instead, the Financial Times suggested, the heads of government may agree on amendments to a protocol attached to the Lisbon Treaty – which requires member states to adopt legal measures implementing the so-called “golden rule” on budget deficits.
Specifically, the measures would make it effectively illegal for a government to run up a deficit of more than 3 per cent of their GDP – or face massive sanctions imposed by Brussels.
The FT says Van Rompuy is satisfied this change could be agreed by all member states – potentially bringing an end to the debt crisis without needing any full-blown treaty change.
This is reinforced by Article 126 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (PDF link), which specifically allows for strengthening of the protocols as long as all member states sign up to it.
It is unclear whether the proposal will meet with the approval of France and Germany, however, who are today due to present Van Rompuy with their own joint proposals – which are set to include the speedy adoption of a new treaty providing for closer fiscal governance.
British prime minister David Cameron has also threatened to veto any plans for a new treaty, saying he would be “insisting on some safeguards too” in order to safeguard the UK’s own interests.
Kenny also told the Dáil that the summit – intended to finish on Friday – “could actually last longer than is being forecasted”, potentially indicating that Europe’s leaders will continue their summit until a deal is reached.