Italian and Czech PMs clash over EU Constitution

The two heads of government exposed their opposing views on how to proceed with the Constitutional Treaty and clashed on the issues of voting rights, division of competences and symbols in the current text.

Speaking after a meeting in Prague on 14 May 2007, Italian Prime Minister and former Commission President Romano Prodi and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek made clear that they had a “different vision” for institutional reforms.

Defending the current text, Prodi argued that the EU Constitution agreed by all member states in 2004 should be “a serious point of departure”. Prodi stressed that the text had been ratified by 18 out of 27 member states.

His Czech counterpart, Mirek Topolanek, replied that the text rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005 could only serve “a basis for further discussion”, but nothing more.

He said: “After the clear declarations of President Sarkozy and Premier Balkenende, France and the Netherlands will reject a repeated ratification process and therefore that ratification process is ended.”

Topolanek said that he could agree with Prodi on the future goals, but noted that “there is a different vision of the instruments and how to realise this future”.

Like his Polish counterpart, the Czech PM seeks to renegotiate the issue of Council voting rules. The Constitutional Treaty proposes to adjust individual member states’ number of votes according to their population size.

The Czech Republic also wants to reopen the discussion about the division of competences between the EU and its member states. He argued that if more powers were transferred to the European level, others had to be returned to the member states. Topolanek said: “We require flexibility on both sides.”

Similar to the UK’s position, Topolanek also insisted that he wants to rid the new Treaty text of any “quasi-constitutional symbols” by dropping the labels ‘Constitution’ and ‘EU foreign minister’, as well as removing the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The German Presidency is currently seeking a compromise on institutional reform, taking the Constitutional Treaty as a basis. At the June Summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to present a ‘road map’ for a new treaty by 2009.

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