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Re-making The EU

  • June 21st, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

eu-summit-004.jpgEuropean heads of government began a summit in Brussels (21.6.07) amid a flurry of talk about the proposed new “reform treaty” they are discussing, to alter the shape of the European Union.

Lee Duffield reports from the “European capital” that all other items were cleared from the agenda to make time for the main debate.

REFORM PLAN

The proposal is to make a reduced version of the European constitution that was ratified by 18 countries but shelved after its rejection two years ago at referendums in France and the Netherlands.

Even this modified plan has been opposed especially by the government of Poland which says changes to the voting system, for putting through legislation within the EU, would reduce it influence.

A draft circulated by the German Presidency for this summit indicated that a proposal to have a European president (President of the European Council) is to stay, and also creation of a post for a foreign policy chief, though no longer to be called the European “foreign minister” – answering complaints that the reform should not be seen to re-make the EU as a separate, unitary “country”.

Simplification of voting regulations has been put forward to make it easier to effect decisions, now that the EU has expanded, with 27 member countries and others applying to join.

INFORMATION BEFORE, AND DURING THE MAIN EVENT

Journalists have been told that other agenda items have been put aside so the government leaders focus on overcoming differences and try to get agreement on the treaty.

It would then go on to a special conference later this year, to work out the full details.

Among the many briefings and commentary as the summit began:

British officials aid privately they had been reassured there would be no transgressions against areas their own anti-europe lobby is most woirried about, like keeping enforcement of the criminal law and national foreign policy in the hand of the Westminster government.

Polish journalists heard their government had been speaking on an emotional plane, about maintaining Poland’s influence in voting to make up for population lost during the Second World War. That would reflect historical sensitivities that last came up strongly at the time of Germany’s reunification in 1990, when the government in Poland demanded that the new German state recognised explicitly the common border agreed on after the War.

TALK OF A DEAL

Some Polish sources said their negotiators this time had suggested they might accept a delay in the introduction of a new voting system, which they could describe as allowing time for the country to further build up its economic position and influence, following the communist era. (Poland currently benefits from infrastructure and other supports from the EU and in resisting change this time, has raised the idea it could jeopardise good will, and what the Europeans call “solidarity”, when it comes to extending such assistance).

The sources said the Polish side had been fully prepared to got through with a threat to veto the treaty proposal, not bluffing.

Senior legal figures employed within the European institutions were said to have come up with a “cunning plan”, where the voting changes opposed by Poland would be installed, but decision-making on some key issues would be moved away from such votes, to stay with the consensus system currently in use.

In the past such ideas talked about outside the European Council – the summit of leaders – have made it onto the actual agenda, and have then disappeared over the twenty-fours of debate that would lead to a settlement.

Picture: The European Council building at Brussels where the “reform” summit meets.

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