The process of ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon by the 27 member states, one of the top priorities of the Slovenian EU Presidency, began on 17 December, when Hungary's parliament overwhelmingly ratified the document. The process will continue in early 2008. Slovenia plans to set an example by approving the text as soon as possible.

"It will probably be in January or February 2008, although the exact date has not been set," explained a Slovenian diplomat. All the documents (treaty, protocols, declarations, etc) were transmitted to parliament before the Christmas recess to enable members to study them during the holidays and vote in early 2008.

France, which will take up the six-month rotating EU Presidency in July, also plans to encourage the process by approving the treaty as early as possible. The French National Assembly will meet on 4 February in Versailles to revise the constitution, a preliminary to endorsing the new treaty. Ratification will take place ahead of the local elections in March, since parliament's hands are tied during the election period. Slovenia and France will team up on the ratification process and hope to see it completed before the end of 2008.

Just one referendum

Is there any possibility of the treaty being rejected, as in 2005 with the draft Constitution? In principle, the chances are slim since governments are avoiding consulting their voters wherever possible. Ireland is the only member state organising a referendum, during the summer of 2008, as obliged by its constitution. Europe has not forgotten Ireland's rejection of the Treaty of Nice in 2001, however. What is more, a poll published by the Irish Times in November showed that 12% of the 1,000 people surveyed planned to vote against the treaty and 62% were undecided. During a similar poll on the draft EU Constitution, 46% of the Irish said they supported the text, 12% were opposed and 42% undecided. "Since the two treaties are virtually identical, the sharp drop in support for the new treaty shows that the outcome of the referendum could be close," concluded the newspaper.

That is just a poll, of course, and the main parties and pressure groups seem to back the text, but there is no guarantee of success. Irish MEP Proinsias de Rossa (PES), speaking at an interparliamentary conference on the future of Europe in December in Brussels, commented: "It is important not to put too much pressure on Ireland. What is needed is to explain in practical terms what...

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