Berlin warns of failure at EU summit
11 December 2003 , BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned Thursday a failure of the EU summit on its planned new constitution could not be ruled out, amid no sign of compromise in a voting row. Fischer told parliament in a statement on the government's Europe policies that negotiations might have to continue in the New Year. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Berlin in a last effort to find agreement in the dispute over national voting rights in the
11 December 2003
BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned Thursday a failure of the EU summit on its planned new constitution could not be ruled out, amid no sign of compromise in a voting row.
Fischer told parliament in a statement on the government's Europe policies that negotiations might have to continue in the New Year.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Berlin in a last effort to find agreement in the dispute over national voting rights in the future EU constitution.
But Polish reports quoting Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said the talks had brought no resolution to disagreements between Poland and Germany over a new voting system.
Cimoszewicz, who with Fischer took part in the meeting, predicted it would be "very difficult" to achieve an agreement at the EU summit beginning Friday in Brussels.
Fischer told parliament that a result at the EU summit was uncertain, but Germany would not agree to a return to the voting formula agreed at the Nice summit 2000, the stance being taken by both Poland and Spain.
Failure to agree to the draft constitution would "almost inevitably" lead to a core Europe and "a Europe of varying speeds".
But Fischer said that "a European compromise" would have to be reached in the end and that "no result this year is considerably better than a poor result that would delay or prevent work in Europe".
Cimoszewicz told BBC World TV that President Kwasniewski did not rule out Poland vetoing the constitutional bill should it diminish the voting rights of smaller states on the E.U. Council.
EU applicant Poland and current member Spain insist the Nice 2000 system, giving smaller countries nearly as much voting clout as their larger neighbours, remains intact.
However, the EU's largest member Germany is pushing for the "double-majority" system which would provide larger countries with decidedly more voting power inside the expanded bloc.
Germany, France and Italy also argue the system would prevent decision-making paralysis in the bloc set to expand from 15 to 25 members 1 May 2004.
A compromise "rendezvous" formula, allowing the Nice system to be changed within a few years should it prove impractical, proposed by Kwasniewski, has so far failed win approval in Berlin, Paris or Rome.
In the meantime, a top German official has said that if the summit fails a cooling off period would be needed before any second attempt to agree a final treaty.
"It will be difficult to negotiate and success is not guaranteed," said the official speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The official said that if talks on this issue failed, Berlin wanted the summit to seal agreement on the rest of the treaty and then for leaders to go home for a "cooling off period" before seeking to again tackle the voting question.
Despite repeated questioning the official refused to give any timetable for a cooling off period.
Turning to financial affairs, the official gave a sharp "nein" to calls by the Netherlands to use the new constitution to eliminate a general ban on one E.U. member state taking another to court for overshooting eurozone budget deficit limits.
Germany and France are set to overshoot the 3 percent of GDP budget deficit for the third year in a row in 2004 but have managed to get most EU finance ministers to approve their actions - much to the anger of the Netherlands.
"We do not regard this as a good move," said the official, adding: "We would not support these ideas."
Subject: German news