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EU: Officials Divided On Whether Irish 'No' Vote Would Stop Enlargement

Ljubljana, 8 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said today that a "No" vote in Ireland's referendum on the Nice Treaty would not stop European Union expansion. Speaking in Slovenia's capital Ljubljana, Verheugen said that, should the majority of Irish voters choose to reject the treaty that paved the way for EU enlargement by 2004, the process would nonetheless proceed "with the same speed and quality."

In contrasting comments, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said today in Budapest that a "No" vote would be bad for enlargement and could hurt the atmosphere of entry talks.

Hungary is considered a frontrunner among Eastern countries hoping to join the 15-nation bloc in 2004.

Irish citizens voted on 7 June on whether to ratify the Nice Treaty, which was adopted in December last year.

Ireland is the only EU country requiring voters to approve the Nice Treaty, which calls for reforms to clear the way for the EU to accept 12 new members, mostly from Eastern Europe. In other EU member nations, parliamentary voting is expected to ratify the treaty.

Partial tallies showed that Ireland is leaning toward a "No" vote. Final results were expected Friday.