EU treaty talksoff to rough start

28th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

28 November 2003 , NAPLES - European Union negotiations on a new constitution for the soon-to-be 25-nation bloc got off to a rough start Friday, with several foreign ministers slamming the Italian E.U. presidency for not doing enough to meet their national demands. Several ministers, led by the Netherlands, also demanded that this week's controversial Franco-German deal on escaping eurozone stability pact sanctions be discussed in Naples. As talks began, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said she was "d

28 November 2003

NAPLES - European Union negotiations on a new constitution for the soon-to-be 25-nation bloc got off to a rough start Friday, with several foreign ministers slamming the Italian E.U. presidency for not doing enough to meet their national demands.

Several ministers, led by the Netherlands, also demanded that this week's controversial Franco-German deal on escaping eurozone stability pact sanctions be discussed in Naples.

As talks began, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said she was "disappointed" that Italy had not dealt with Madrid's demands on voting rights, said diplomats.

Intervening even before the meeting's chairman Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini took the floor, Palacio warned that Spanish and Polish demands for retaining their voting rights under the previous Nice Treaty could not be ignored by others.

"This is a key problem for all Europe," she warned, according to diplomats. The Nice Treaty gives Spain and Poland almost equal votes as EU giants France and Germany but the new constitution would rewrite the formula.

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said it was "very, very important" that all countries, big or small, have an equal number of European Commissioners.

Denmark, meanwhile, dug its heels on references in the treaty to Europe's religious heritage, saying the new constitution should not just focus on Christianity as demanded by Italy, Poland and Spain.

The two-day EU meeting is taking place amid heavy security, with about 4,000 policemen, anti-terrorist squads as well as sniffer dogs deployed around the Mostra d'Oltremare conference centre.

Anti-globalisation protests - now a regular feature at EU encounters - are threatening to disrupt the meeting on Saturday.

Italy wants to wrap up by the treaty talks by the end of the year. But with governments divided over key issues, diplomats are warning that the negotiations could extend into next year.

Britain has also raised the stakes, with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw flatly rejecting Italian proposals to end the national veto on European foreign policy. The Italian plan was "unacceptable," said Straw.

DPA
Subject: German news

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