The French and Polish presidents have met in Paris to discuss institutional reform. But with the growing threat of a Polish veto on any change to the Council voting system, the upcoming summit is unlikely to bring the EU out of its institutional impasse.
French and Polish Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Lech Kaczynski met on 14 June 2007 to discuss the EU’s New Treaty, on which an agreement will be sought at the 21-22 June 2007 EU summit.
“I really think that we can reach an agreement on the Constitutional Treaty,” said Sarkozy, following the meeting of the two EU leaders. However, he added: “The night between 21 and 22 June will be long.”
Indeed, even though Kaczynski said that he believed a compromise to satisfy all nations will be found, he repeated that Poland would not accept any changes that lower his country’s current rank of importance with regards the Council voting rights. He also said that Poland was not afraid of ‘standing up’ to the rest of the EU-27, in particular Germany, on the issue.
Current voting is based on the Nice system and favours Spain and Poland, giving them almost the same number of votes in the Council (27) as the largest EU members Germany, France, the UK and Italy (29).
The draft Constitution proposed the adoption of a double-majority voting system, in order better to reflect member states’ populations. According to the system that serves as a basis for discussions for a New Treaty, at least 55% of member states and 65% of the EU population would be needed to pass legislation.
However, Poland has refused to accept the new rules, arguing that they favour the larger countries and instead proposed a ‘square root system’, in which the number of votes that each country wins in the Council is roughly based on the square root of its population in millions. Poland, with its 38 million citizens, would get 6 votes, whereas the 82 million citizens-strong Germany would only have 9 votes. Poland has threatened to use its veto at the EU Summit on 21-22 June 2007.
In view of this major ‘stumbling block’, Chancellor Merkel said that a solution was “still not in sight”, speaking to the German Bundestag on 14 June 2007.