Two of the men who emerged with the most to smile about from the summit of the 27 EU leaders in Brussels were the Irish Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission.
Jose Manuel Barroso won unanimous backing for another term in the top job. And Ireland’s Prime Minister Brian Cowen came away with guarantees on the Lisbon Treaty that are intended to persuade Irish voters into approving the document they have already thrown out. Cowen said: “We are guaranteed that we can keep an Irish commissioner, we have reaffirmed the importance of workers’ rights and social policy, and we have cast-iron legal guarantees on taxation, neutrality and ethical issues. I am confident that we have now a solid basis to go to the Irish people and to ask them again for their approval for Ireland to ratify the Treaty so that Europe can move on.” A year ago this week, the “No” campaign in Ireland threw a major spanner into the European works. There were fears in Brussels over the last couple of days, that any guarantees for Ireland would amount to changes in the Treaty that would then require the whole thing to be ratified again. Not so, said the Czech Prime Minister, currently holding the EU presidency. Jan Fischer said: “It is an explanatory text, a clarifying text, I want really to stress that. It is a clarifying text wchich changes not a dot, nor a comma of the Lisbon Treaty. The guarantees and the way they are adopted will not lead to the re-opening of the ratification process.” Gordon Brown was persuaded that Britain’s financial watchdogs would not be muzzled by setting up new pan-European financial regulators. Leaders agreed measures on illegal immigration and climate change. In fact, Barroso claimed there was consensus on all of the major issues up for discussion. He called it – a ’100 per cent result’.