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Plea For Support For “New Europe” Plan – As A Dust-Up Looms

  • June 20th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

barroso-strasbourg-19-june-07.jpgThe President of the European Commission , Jose Manuel Barroso, has pleaded with Europe’s Heads of Government to revive the expansion project killed off by voter referendums two years ago, in France and the Netherlands.

He was speaking ahead of a summit starting on Thursday at Brussels, set to discuss a modified version of the European constitution project — with some member governments putting up obstacles to the plan.

Mr Barosso heads the executive wing of the European Union which has been pressing for the change as a new general treaty, which would consolidate European law, and simplify decision-making, including voting procedures to be followed on many issues.

As proposed it would also create the positions of a European President, (President of the European Council, for a fixed term, replacing a rotation of nominees from member governments), and also a European foreign minister.

The plan was originally put forward as a new constitution, and suspended after its rejection by French and Dutch voters – though it was ratified by 18 of the then-25 member countries.

Supporters like Mr Barroso say that change is necessary to make the European Union manageable, with its expanded membership; currently 27 countries with some 500 000 000 people.

CHANCE OF A DEAL

He was at Strasbourg today (19.6.07), speaking with Members of the European Parliament.

He told a media conference there was an “environment for a deal” and an opportunity to more effectively implement positive policies that had been worked on, like joint action against climate change, handling pressure from immigration and adjustments to the “globalised” world economy.

“There will be very big differences around the table, but I believe we should not leave Brussels until there is a deal, and I think there will be an agreement,” he said.

“If we don’t succeed we will all be losers; if we succeed, all will be winners.”

OPPOSITION

There has been opposition from the Polish government which says it will lose ground, and influence, in the mathematics of the voting system, if the changes go ahead – and it has threatened a veto of the whole arrangement.

Amid a fresh round of criticism of the EU in Britain, the Brtitish government has spoken of its “red line” boundary which keeps criminal matters – justice and home affairs – strictly in the hands of the national government; restricting the idea of European expansion.

Mr Barroso said that some member countries which had previously been opposed, especially France, had been ready to compromise, and all parties should be prepared to do the same.

Several which had yes, had also compromised, by letting the argument be opened up again, though he believed much that had already been negotiated and formally agreed would have to be left alone and accepted.

MESSAGE TO DISSENTERS

He said he would tell national leaders that uncompromising opposition to change could give a government some political advantage in its own country but that would not last.
“Please avoid being seen as a hardliner; pleased avoid to be seen as blocking … Don’t clome with this red line or veto, against proposals for a European Union that will deliver for its citizens,” he said.

He said new member states from Eastern Europe, like Poland, were being called on to join in the process of compromise.

“”It is in the interest of these new member states to show their membership of the European Union is not going to make life more difficult for it, but to help give active support to contructive work.”

The Euroepan Commission President said there had been an unprecedented round of debates and consultations leading up to the show-down expected at the Heads of Government smmit.

Questioned about plans to put the new and reduced structures through parliaments instead of referendums, for approval, he said separate countries had to ratify the changes under their own laws; and their national parliaments were legitimate and democratic.

“”I do not accept that a national parliament is a back door, as a process,” he said.

DAYS OF DEBATES

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as chairperson of the coming summit has been leading a round of urgent consultations with the other leaders.

He has concentrated on trying to find a compromise with the Polish Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and that was followed up when the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, also spoke with Mr Kaczynski.

She has said that in the days leading up to the gathering no settlement had been agreed on so far.

IN BRUSSELS the European Commission released the results of surveys indicating popular support for expansion of the powers of the EU, on key issues.

The results indicated that citizens approved of their government working closely with the EU on environmental protection, energy issues, defence and fighting terrorism, with 60-80% saying those should be managed at the Europe-wide level.

The EC said that on average 57% were positive about their country being a member of the EU, the highest level of support since 1994.

Picture: Jose Manuel Barroso’s press conference in Strasbourg was transmitted to media centres elsewhere.

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