Raffarin sees June agreement on EU constitution

25th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

DUBLIN, May 24 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on Monday that he was optimistic that agreement would be found on a new constitution for the European Union despite the obstacles.

DUBLIN, May 24 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on Monday that he was optimistic that agreement would be found on a new constitution for the European Union despite the obstacles.

"We think we are very close to obtaining an agreement at the June 17-18 summit. There are still problems to be solved," Raffarin told journalists here after a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

"As far as the vast majority of issues is concerned, France will support the compromise proposal put forward by Ireland at the summit," he added.Ahern said simply: "we still need to work."

One of the major stumbling blocks remains the voting system.

In the draft constitution for the 25-member EU, drawn up by a European convention, the EU's complex system of weighted voting would be scrapped in favour of a new "double majority".

EU laws would pass with the support of at least 50 percent of member states representing 60 percent of the total population - which with this month's addition of 10 more member states now stands at 455 million.

Raffarin said here that while "the principle of double majority voting has been accepted," the 50-60 rule for passing laws had not.

Against this backdrop Raffarin said France was ready to shift "at the margins," although he declined to elaborate. He said Paris, on the other hand, was not ready to accept a situation whereby "countries can find themselves in a blocking position."

On the delicate question of the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the constitution Raffarin said that whatever was decided, there had to be consensus.

"France should not be seen as hostile to this proposal," he said. "We wish to remain close to the (original) draft and we can only move away from it through consensus."

The initiative to include Christianity has the support of seven of the 25 EU countries, including Italy and Poland.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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