Merkel urges Ireland to back new EU treaty

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Irish voters Monday to allow the European Union to “continue to flourish” by voting in favour of the EU reform treaty in a referendum in June.

“What I can say looking back not least on my own life is that unification and the creation of the EU is the best thing that has happened to Europe in its long history,” Merkel told a forum of politicians and business leaders in Dublin. “To my mind the Lisbon Treaty offers the best preparation for Europe’s future. Let us all make sure that the European Union continues to flourish,” she said. “To the sceptics, I can only say that if everything remains as it is now, your concerns will definitely not be better addressed.”

Ireland is the only one of the 27 EU member states holding a vote on the treaty, which is designed to replace the draft constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters, and a “No” vote could in theory block it and plunge the union into fresh chaos.

Merkel’s speech to the National Forum of Europe kicked off a pro-European assault on Ireland this week, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso visiting on Thursday to rally votes in favour of the treaty. The chancellor said the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to prevent decision-making gridlock in the expanding bloc, increased the power of Ireland and other smaller states within the EU.

A system of majority voting would allow them to block proposals from traditional European powerhouses such as Germany, she said. “The new majority voting system in the Lisbon Treaty is actually more of a problem for the bigger states. Today even a big country such as Germany will simply also have to give up on some of its interests,” Merkel said.

In a question and answer session, the chancellor rejected suggestions from some Irish politicians that the treaty was an attempt to create a European “super state.”

A poll published Monday showed that a majority of Irish voters remain undecided on the treaty and less than a third intend to vote at all on June 12. The survey, published in the Irish Sun newspaper, found 28 percent have decided to vote “Yes”, 12 percent will opt for “No” and 60 percent are still to make up their minds.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has said he will stand down in May to fight allegations of irregularities in his personal finances. His likely successor, current Finance Minister Brian Cowen, has vowed to make securing a “Yes” vote his first priority.

Irish voters have rocked the EU before—they rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001, but the result was reversed in a later poll.