Druk op Iers voorzitterschap neemt toe om totaalpakket op onderhandelingstafel te leggen (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 18 mei 2004, 16:38.
Auteur: | By Honor Mahony

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Following another day of difficult negotiations on the Constitution on Tuesday (18 May), the Irish Presidency has been urged to produce a compromise package on the Constitution to get the talks moving.

French foreign minister Michel Barnier threw down the gauntlet to Dublin and demanded that the Presidency take a risk.

"They have to take a risk", said Mr Barnier adding that a "global package" - including a proposal on the vexed issue of the new voting system - has to be put on the table.

"A little bit of vehemence is needed" said the French foreign minister.

His words come after EU foreign ministers spent the morning in Brussels disagreeing about how many commissioners there should be in the future.

Belgium, France, Germany for small commission

France and Germany led the field calling for the Brussels executive to be reduced.

According to diplomats, Mr Barnier supported the idea of 15 or 18 commissioners in the future while Germany said the number could be fixed at 2/3 of the number of member states from 2014.

Belgium, which also supports a reduced commission, was alone in calling for it to happen as early as 2009.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Denmark made the strongest call against reducing the executive.

They were backed up in their call for one commissioner per country by several new member states as well as Austria and Greece.

For its part, the Irish Presidency had suggested that the Brussels executive be reduced to 18 members from 2014 - meaning that for one out of every three terms, a member state would be without a commissioner.

No compromises until the whole package is seen

In a press conference afterwards, Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero Waldner said having one commissioner per country tied Austrian citizens to the Commission.

She said she would only consider talking about the institutional issue as a part of a final overall package - which included proposals on the voting system.

This sentiment was expressed by several foreign ministers during the meeting itself, said an official present at the talks.

Presidency hits back

The Irish Presidency, stung by what it perceives as ministers playing up to their domestic audiences, urged ministers to brief accurately.

"Accuracy is a criteria for any kind of briefing", said Irish foreign minister Brian Cowen tartly.

He went on to add that the discussion on the Constitution is "both a helpful and necessary process".

"It is not a question of taking risks", said Mr Cowen. He would not be drawn on when exactly Dublin would bring forward new proposals and what exactly they would contain but gave the impression it would not be rushed.

"The Irish Presidency is taking its own responsibilities in how [it] proceeds".

EU foreign ministers will meet once again next week on 24 May to continue negotiations on the Constitution where they are expected to tackle the most controversial issue of all - the proposed new voting system.

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