No consensus yet on simplified EU treaty

24th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, May 24, 2007 (AFP) - No consensus has yet been reached on France's proposal of a simplified treaty to drag the European Union out of its constitutional crisis, a European Commission spokesman said Thursday.

BRUSSELS, May 24, 2007 (AFP) - No consensus has yet been reached on France's proposal of a simplified treaty to drag the European Union out of its constitutional crisis, a European Commission spokesman said Thursday.

"There is an emerging consensus but that doesn't mean that consensus is already there," said spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

"The work we are undertaking has a positive dynamic but we haven't completed the talks yet," and much remains to be done before an EU summit on June 21-22, he told a press conference in Brussels.

At that summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which holds the EU's rotating presidency until July, hopes to reach agreement on a roadmap towards sealing a treaty to replace the EU's failed constitution, scuppered by 'no' votes in Dutch and French referendums in 2005.

Laitenberger was talking the day after new French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Brussels to champion his idea of a simplified treaty, which would obviate the need for more unpredictable referendums.

Sarkozy told a press conference here that the idea of a simplified treaty was "the only possible solution" to the bloc's institutional gridlock.

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at the same press conference following talks with the French leader, said he saw a consensus emerging in favour of a new, simplified EU treaty.

Institutional reform is deemed vital to make the bloc's workings more efficient, especially in the wake of its enlargement from 15 to 27 member states since 2004.

However there are many differences among the member states as to what the treaty should enshrine.

Germany and 17 other countries ratified the original constitution and most of those want the revisions to be as limited as possible.

"There is reason for optimism," Laitenberger said. "The good scenario on which everyone is working is to have a consensus at the European Council (summit)."

In his Brussels comments Sarkozy did not give precise details of his plan but spoke of the need for a more stable EU presidency -- it currently switches from country to country every six months -- and the extension of the qualified majority voting system to areas where member states currently wield a veto.

Germany has insisted on the need to preserve the substance of the original text.

A German spokesman said Thursday that Merkel's position had not changed.

She is prepared to envisage a shorter text but one that maintains the substance of the constitutional treaty, notably concerning the reference to European social values, and she doesn't want a treaty which merely covers the mechanics of how the EU functions, the spokesman in Berlin said.

She remains determined to present the road map next month with a view to getting a new treaty ratified before the European parliamentary elections in 2009, he added.

"We support the values, the principles, the goals of the constitutional treaty," Barroso said Thursday.   

"We must now find a formula which can respond to the concerns, which we share, to safeguard much of the substance of the treaty, while demonstrating that we have listened to the preoccupations who don't want the treaty," he told AFP.

Laitenberger stressed the EU executive arm's attachment to the European charter of fundamental rights, enshrined in the original constitution.

"The entire constiutional treaty is on the table for discussion and the charter of fundamental rights is a very important element," he said.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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