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EU Membership, Lisbon Treaty Key For Econ Recovery

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DUBLIN -(Dow Jones)- Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen Wednesday said Ireland's membership of the European Union has been crucial in helping this small, open economy weather the current economic crisis and called for a 'Yes' vote in the forthcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

"Difficult as our current economic challenges may be, the euro has prevented the current crisis in Ireland being far worse," he said, signaling the government will make the economic crisis a key feature in its campaign to vote in favor of the Lisbon Treaty.

Ireland was the only member of the 27-nation bloc to hold a referendum on the treaty, with voters rejecting it in June 2008 by 53.4% to 46.6%, throwing the future of the European projectinto crisis. A second referendum will be held here Oct. 2.

Speaking at a conference held by the Institute of Public Administration, Cowen said: "We are at a crossroads as a nation in terms of the choices we must make about the road to economic recovery, new forms of financial regulation, the Lisbon Treaty and our future role in Europe."

Separately, Cowen also confirmed the government has signed off on the bill for the National Asset Management Agency, or NAMA, and the final legislation will be published this week so the bill can be debated in parliament. The main opposition party Fine Gael opposes NAMA.

The NAMA take up to EUR90 billion of property and development loans from Ireland's major banks to free up lines of credit. Ireland's banks were particularly hard hit by the global financial crisis, and more directly by a collapse in the property market.

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