Dublin, 19 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Polling stations opened across Ireland today (9 a.m. local time) as the country's more than 2 million voters decide whether to say "yes" or "no" to the European Union's Nice Treaty, which lays out the institutional framework for EU expansion. European Union leaders have warned that a second "no" vote by Ireland could cause a major crisis for the bloc. Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty with a 54 percent "no" vote in June 2001.
The treaty -- negotiated in December 2000 in Nice, France -- must be ratified by all current EU member states in order for enlargement to occur. The treaty will expire by end of this year unless approved by all 15 members.
Ireland is the only EU member that has not ratified the treaty, and the only member state where the treaty is subject to a constitutional referendum.
Irish opposition to the Nice Treaty has focused not on the expansion issue, but rather on concerns that the treaty is a threat to Ireland's democracy, independence, and neutrality.