Following signature of the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe, which is to take place in Rome on 29 October, it will then be for all member states of the European Union to ratify the European constitution in accordance with their own constitutional requirements. The European constitution sets a target date of 1 November 2006 for the completion of this process and for its entry into force. The Taoiseach has made clear, most recently in this House on 6 October, that there will be a referendum in Ireland. The Government will give detailed thought to the timing in due course.
The Government will do all it can to foster the fullest possible national debate on the European constitution, building on the excellent work done by the National Forum on Europe and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs during the European convention and the subsequent intergovernmental conference. As an initial contribution, my Department will next week be publishing an explanatory guide to the European constitution, together with a short pamphlet for wider distribution. I am also conscious of the important role political parties, the social partners and other concerned groups and individuals have in stimulating debate.
I am confident that the public will recognise that the European constitution is an important and positive step forward in the development of the European Union. It is a balanced document, clarifying how the Union operates and equipping it to face new challenges, without substantially changing its basic character or its relationship with its member states.