The German Presidency is seeking a consensus for Berlin Declaration, which will mark the Union’s 50th anniversary on 25 March 2007. But views differ on what it should include.
The declaration is set to contain four elements. It will first evoke the EU’s historic achievements, such as the common market, the euro and the Schengen area of passport-free travel. However, this part already proves problematic, as not all EU member states participate in the common currency and new member states still do not enjoy the complete benefits of free movement within the EU.
A second issue addressed will be European common values. But this seems problematic too, as some, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, would favour the inclusion of a reference to God or Christian values. However, her Social Democrat coalition partner, as well as some countries, such as France that have a strong secular tradition, oppose such a reference.
The declaration will also look forward to the EU’s future challenges, including globalisation, energy safety and climate change.
The last part intends to demonstrate the political will to go forward. Originally, this element should have included a reference to the Constitution. However, since this issue is highly sensitive for some member states, such as Poland and the UK, it was dropped and instead is likely to only refer to “a treaty” or more generally “institutional reform”.
In France, where the Constitution was rejected in a referendum in 2005, the Constitutional debate is very sensitive. This makes it even more difficult to discuss the issue before presidential elections take place in April and May 2007.
In the end,however, all these elements are likely to disappear or become vague. As the German Presidency suggests, the declaration will boil down to the “lowest common denominator”.