Schroeder in surprise EUtalks after Netherlands’ no
2 June 2005
BERLIN – German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was due to fly to Luxembourg later on Thursday for hastily arranged talks with Prime Minister Jean-Clause Juncker after a resounding rejection of the European Union’s constitution in a Dutch referendum.
Juencker, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, will host a crucial summit in Brussels on 16-17 June at which leaders of the bloc will seek a way out of the crisis posed by the Dutch ‘no’ vote on Wednesday and the rejection of the treaty by French voters on Sunday.
Schroeder insisted the ratification process for the constitution must go on. Germany is one of nine EU states to have approved the text. All 25 EU members must give a green light for the treaty in order for it to come into force.
“The crisis over the ratification of the European constitution must not be allowed to become a universal crisis for Europe,” said Schroeder.
French president Jacques Chirac also slated surprise talks for Saturday with Schroeder in Berlin. Chirac and Schroeder will meet again in Paris on 10 June and the German leader is scheduled to have another round of talks with Juncker on the same day, officials said.
British prime minister Tony Blair, who takes over the EU presidency from July, will also meet with Schroeder in Berlin on 13 June, the government said.
President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder have long regarded themselves as the motor of the European Union and have regular bilateral meetings.
But Chirac has been battered by the French ‘no’ to the treaty and Schroeder faces a tough bid to stay in power after seeking early German elections for this autumn.
Meanwhile, a European spokesman for Germany’s conservative opposition downplayed the defeat for the constitution and underlined that the bloc remained capable of taking action under its Nice Treaty.
“Europe has not lurched into a crisis,” said Gerd Mueller, the European affairs spokesman for the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Germany’s federal parliament.
Mueller said the EU remained fully capable of taking decisions on the basis of its Nice Treaty approved by leaders in 2000 which the constitution was supposed to replace.
The constitutional project must be deemed to have “failed,” said Mueller, adding that given the powerful ‘no’ vote in the Netherlands on Wednesday and in France on Sunday there was no way a second referendum could be held in these countries.
Matthias Wissmann, the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) head of parliament’s European Affairs Committee, said the double rejection of the constitution meant the EU would have to change its way of doing business.
“Whenever Brussels tries to regulate people’s everyday things the frustration over Europe grows,” said Wissmann, adding the EU would have to withdraw from some areas and focus on doing things essential to the European level.
He said everything else could be done “more efficiently and more transparently” at the national level.
Wolfgang Gerhardt, of the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), who is tipped to be Germany’s next foreign minister if Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is defeated in autumn elections, took a more cautious approach.
Gerhardt called for continuing the ratification process of the constitution in all remaining EU member states.
He rejected the idea of imposing minimum social welfare standards throughout the bloc as have been sought by some who voted against the constitution due to the belief it would foster neo-liberal policies.
“Minimum social welfare standards won’t help at all because we are in national competition and we can’t slam our door shut as if the whole world will abide by what Europe agrees,” said Gerhardt.
What the opposition says in Germany has taken new meaning after Schroeder last month called for surprise early elections after his Social Democrats (SPD) were badly defeated in a key regional vote.
Germany’s opposition Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and their FDP ally are currently way ahead of the government with 53 percent in opinion polls, compared to 37 percent for Schroeder’s ruling SPD-Greens coalition.
Elections in Germany are expected to be held on 18 September.
Subject: German news