Merkel wants EU Constitution deal by 2009

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Presenting the presidency programme to the Parliament, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also made clear that institutional change was necessary before further enlargement.

Speaking to MEPs on 17 January 2007, Chancellor Merkel presented a working programme for the next 18 months, under the German, Portuguese and Slovenian “presidency trio” and pushed to find an answer to the constitutional impasse in time for the summit on 21-22 June 2007.

Merkel made her opinion clear: “The period of reflection is over. Until June, we now have to come to new decisions.” She said that the German Presidency would lay out a road map for the further constitutional process, in order to adopt a Constitution before the next European elections in 2009. Merkel warned that “a failure would be a historical default.” She stressed that institutional changes should be made before any further enlargement.

She also underlined the need for a comprehensive trade agreement with Russia. Merkel is to discuss the issue on her visit to Russia on 21 January 2007.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the presidency had his “full support”, but also added some concrete proposals for the Berlin declaration on 25 March 2007, which will lay out the path towards an institutional settlement. He said: “The Berlin Declaration must look forward and deliver a political statement about the Europe we want for the next fifty years.” In particular, Barroso pointed to the issues of social and economic cohesion, energy and climate change, transparency and information, security and the spread of European values.

Presenting his "wishes to the press" in Paris on 16 January 2007, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin underlined the French political ambition for Europe, despite his country having rejected the EU Constitution. He spoke out in favour of a Europe "which protects and defends the economic interests of its businesses and which offers real social guarantees". Meanwhile, French Socialist candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, announced that she wanted to adopt the new Constitution by referendum in 2009.

MEP Joseph Daul, new leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) pointed to the problem that on the constitutional issue, it was difficult to find a "balance between the countries that have said yes and no in the referendum".

Socialist group leader Martin Schulz underlined the importance of social aspects, as well as liberty.

Commenting on Merkel's plans, Liberal MEP Andrew Duff said: "Chancellor Merkel is absolutely right to try to salvage the Constitution by way of its improvement and to oppose the idea of an inferior mini-treaty."

Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope said: "Because we Conservatives want to see a future for the EU and believe in a strong Europe, we want to see it confront its failings. Returning to the constitutional debate will demonstrate that we have not done so despite Merkel's otherwise good intentions expressed today. It will simply reinforce a sense of alienation with Europe."

European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) called on the presidency to break the constitutional deadlock, preferably by adding a social protocol to the existing treaty. It strongly opposes "cherry-picking" aimed at producing a "mini-treaty", or excluding the vital Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Following the failed referenda on the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands in 2005, the EU has found itself in a crisis. So far, the "period of reflection" has not brought about a solution that would satisfy all member states.

Currently, 18 of the 27 EU member states have ratified the constitutional treaty.

  • On 26 January 2007 Luxembourg and Spain will hold a meeting of member states that have already ratified the EU Constitution to discuss how to preserve the current text.
  • The EU Summit on 8-9 March will focus on economic and social issues, as well as energy.
  • The EU Summit on 21-22 June will deal with the future of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.
  • A constitutional treaty should be adopted before the European Parliament elections in 2009.

 

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