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Brussels, 25 May 2001

EU Commissioner David Byrne speaks out on Treaty of Nice

"As the only Member State of the current European Union to hold a direct referendum of the people on the issues of the Nice Treaty, the people of Ireland are speaking, not only for themselves, but also for all the citizens of Europe". So said David Byrne, Irish member of the European Commission, in an address to members of the European Movement-Ireland in Dublin this afternoon.

In his address, Commissioner Byrne asked whether "Europe" can only be taken to refer to a geographical area? or simply an institution? or just a formal assembly of 15 countries? or rather, as he believes, a "Union of Peoples"? Looking back, he said that in his view the construction of the European project was the most significant undertaking of the 20 th century, driven by the resolve to establish between the peoples of Europe, the conditions for a lasting peace. "Countries that were once enemies, today share a common currency - the €uro - and manage their economic and commercial interests with the framework of joint institutions", he said. "Neighbours who fought for years in the mud and rubble of global wars for an inch of land now work together and trade without frontiers. Peoples who for a century tried to batter each other into submission now guarantee a continent wide rule of law within shared institutions."

Mr Byrne said that it is imperative that this new time of peace for the European Union should not be taken for granted. The tragic events of the past and the conflicts which still today undermine the Balkans are forceful reminders that we still have much to achieve.

The Commissioner said that the fundamental purpose of the Treaty of Nice is to enable enlargement of the Union to the east and south to take place. "This is an ambitious project, which provides an unprecedented historical opportunity to restore and reunite Europe to its peaceful and prosperous state. He spoke of the candidate countries "re-entering" Europe seeking to take their place once more as proud, modern, independent and free nations and peoples, and as equals at the European table where decision are made.

"It is important to recall that without Nice we will have no measures to allow the new members to vote in the Council, to elect members to the European Parliament and to take their seats in the Commission," he said.

"To pretend, as some have, that the Nice Treaty is irrelevant to enlargement, can be considered dangerously misleading."

Mr Byrne went on to affirm that the Treaty of Nice does not create a European Super State. It does not create a European army. What it does, is make strides towards ensuring the peace and security of all its citizens.

"In my view, the question of neutrality does not enter the equation when it comes to playing a role in peacekeeping and reconstruction such as after the terrible events in the Balkans over the past decade", he said. "It can no longer be justified to have an impotent Europe that has no capacity to provide humanitarian assistance for a crisis on the European Union's own doorstep."

He stressed that the Nice Treaty and the subsequent enlargement of the EU will not remove or lessen the benefits of Union membership to Ireland or any of the other current members, but rather extend the collective benefits of the European Union to all members, both old and new. "Ireland will remain a central players in a wider, more stable and more propserous Union", he said.

For the full text of Commissioner Byrne's speech go to

Released on 28/05/2001


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