Government delays decision on EU treaty

The Irish government will not decide whether to hold a referendum on Europe's plans for tighter fiscal union until March, The Irish Times reported on Tuesday. At a meeting in Brussels last week, 26 EU member states agreed to closer monetary union as part of attempts to quell the crisis in the Eurozone. Britain stands outside this group after it used its veto to reject the move, citing concerns about the financial services industry, according to reports.

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The Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, said it was not yet clear if a referendum would be needed. "We certainly don't want to commit to be in a position to determine whether we need a referendum or not until we have the final text agreed by all member states," she told the Times. "We won't be making a determination on the basis of an initial draft, we'll be making a determination of what comes out of the whole process."

Irish citizens are entitled to vote on major transfers of power to Brussels. In the past, this has had mixed results. In 2008 the public rejected the Lisbon Treaty, before allowing it to pass in 2009 with reassurances about the military, neutrality, abortion laws and tax policy. Now the stakes are higher both for Ireland and for the Eurozone, and a rejection of a new treaty would likely jeopardize the economic recovery of the region.

EU diplomats hope that a draft treaty will be ready next week, and want it to be ratified by June 2012. Creighton said there was a 50/50 chance that a vote would be required.