The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty may have applied brake to European integration, but it is unlikely to derail the process, analysts say.
Despite the Irish "no" vote last Thursday, European Union (EU) leaders have refused to declare the Lisbon Treaty dead. They have urged the continuation of the ratification process elsewhere in the EU, hoping the Irish authorities will ultimately come up with a remedy.
EU leaders were probably right when they said Irish voters did not vote against the EU. Ireland itself is one of the biggest beneficiaries of European integration. Thanks to billions of euros of fund from the EU, Ireland has been transformed from a poor agricultural country into a modern, innovative society.
By rejecting the Lisbon Treaty, the Irish voters may want the train of European integration to slow down a bit. But they have no intention at all to leave the train, observers say.
At the EU summit to be held later Thursday, Ireland's new Prime Minister Brian Cowen would be asked to offer his opinion on the chances of holding another referendum on the treaty.
The two-day European Union summit is sure to discuss solutions to save the Lisbon Treaty, but many observers believe no "fast-fix" can be made.
Leaders know, however, that a second referendum could not be rushed as risks of another failure could not be ruled out. No "roadmap" is expected until the next EU summit in October, under the French EU presidency.
EU leaders are looking for the completion of ratification by all other EU member states but Ireland by the end of 2008. Then Ireland could be offered "sweeteners" so that chances of success could be boosted in a second referendum, like what happened in 2001 with the Nice Treaty.
Ireland rejected the Nice Treaty in a 2001 referendum. A second vote was successful after the treaty was amended in a way that Ireland's military neutrality was guaranteed.
Concessions this time may include the preservation of a member of the European Commission for each member state and permanent national vetoes on taxation.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, will be composed of representatives from two thirds of EU member states, instead of each for every country as it stands now.
Britain ratified the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday, becoming the first country to do so following the Irish "no" vote. Ratification of the treaty in a country where "euroskeptics" abound at such a sensitive juncture gives a strong boost to the ratification process.
In the past 50 years, the EU has been proven to be able to overcome institutional crises. The Lisbon Treaty impasse is expected to be no exception given the long tradition of compromises of the EU.
To an extent, European integration will continue even if the Lisbon Treaty is dead, observers say.
Another option to the treaty impasse is to put some of the reforms contained in the Lisbon Treaty into the accession treaty of Croatia, which may join the EU in 2010 or 2011.
This alternative must be the last resort in that it would water down the Lisbon Treaty as not all reforms can be put into the accession treaty.