The declaration concocted by the Council Presidency was endorsed all the more rapidly in that Dublin's partners agreed unanimously that the result of the Irish referendum was what France's Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine described as a "blip". France's National Assembly was due to ratify the Nice Treaty on June 12. His German counterpart Joschka Fischer likewise indicated that Europe has always operated in a dialogue between crisis and progress. In extremis, the proviso "whilst respecting the wishes of the Irish people" was nevertheless added ahead of the declaration that Ministers expressed their "regret at the result of the Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty".European Commission President Romano Prodi commented that the organisation of referendums opens governments up to this kind of risk. He suggested that difficulties often stem from complicated discussions beyond the understanding of many citizens. He emphasised the importance of not losing direction, indicating that whilst he has not been an enthusiastic supporter of the Nice Treaty from the outset, and has not changed his position, Nice permits enlargement, which justifies pursuing the ratification process. Brian Cowen was himself sanguine, acknowledging that re-negotiation is not an option. The Irish Minister, who according to internal sources adopted a low profile, acknowledging that his Government did too little to ensure a positive outcome, agreed that the referendum does not draw a line under the ratification debate and that ratification per se is not in question.And now? Hubert Vedrine described the situation as annoying, regrettable and disappointing, but solvable. He was referring to the previous Danish No in a referendum in June 1992 on the Maastricht Treaty and the "interpretative declaration" secured six months later by the Danes from the Edinburgh European Council. This permitted a second, successful, referendum the following year. Heads of State and Government will consider the various options at the Gothenburg European Council on June 15 and 16 in order to find a solution by the Laeken Summit in December. Meanwhile, it remains an Irish and not a European problem, according to Belgium's Foreign Minister, Louis Michel.Mr Cowen, who refused to raise the notion of a second referendum, indicated that no decision has yet been taken as to how to re-launch the process. If will first be necessary to analyse the motivations of the Irish electorate and notably the cause of the...

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