Pessimisme over tijdpad afronding EU-Grondwet (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER), gepubliceerd op maandag 17 mei 2004, 20:11.
Auteur: | By Honor Mahony

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - As the list of issues still to be agreed next month on the Constitution grows, some EU ministers have expressed concern about whether member states' self-imposed timetable will be kept.

Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (17 May) saw no final agreement on several issues - including some where the Irish EU Presidency thought agreement was a foregone conclusion.

The practical effect is that Dublin has to go back to the drawing board on some questions just one month before EU leaders are meant to finalise the whole document.

Team presidency agreed

While there appeared to be consensus on a new three-country team presidency system to lead the EU, there was less agreement on budget issues and whether the European Court of Justice should have say over the excessive deficit procedure under the euro rules.

There was also no agreement on the common commercial policy where the Swedes and the Finns - backed up by Denmark, Estonia and Slovakia - made a call for the policy not to apply to social affairs, education, culture and health.

The fact that there was little progress once again today made some ministers openly question the timetable - which foresees that negotiations are wrapped up by 18 June.

Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel said "At this stage one should be able to see where the little space of elasticity is, or where one could pass [to have an agreement] on the positions that are not fundamental - but I do not sense that".

He added: "I do not know whether it will be possible for certain [countries] to soften their position before the European elections".

UK foreign secretary Jack Straw was equally downbeat. Speaking on Monday morning he did not rule out that the timetable might slip back from the Irish Presidency into the Dutch Presidency which takes over the EU reins on 1 July.

"There is always that possibility. I will make no promises. We live in hope".

The Polish foreign minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, also made a bleak forecast saying "If it goes on like that, I would not bet on an agreement".

Poland itself is a cause for concern among other EU member states as its uncertain domestic political situation may mean the government will not have the mandate to negotiate on the Constitution.

The spirit of compromise

The Irish Presidency, however, refused to be drawn on the possibility that the timetable may be overshot.

Irish foreign minister Brian Cowen spoke of a "spirit of compromise". He added that based on the discussions so far, foreign ministers "will meet the responsibilities" that have been given to them.

One EU diplomat remarked that member states were playing to the domestic audience by making these pessimistic comments.

"I was in the room and the atmosphere was definitely very positive", claimed the diplomat.

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