Monday, May 17, 2004
European Constitution: Open for Discussion

The Euractiv website contains the latest summary of the documents, circulated by the Irish Presidency of the European Union, for discussion at the next intergovernmental conference, taking place today and tomorrow. These documents demonstrate that there are a number of issues still to be resolves including the scope of qualified majority voting, the future shape of the European Commission (including the number of Commissioners chosen from each country) and the voting system in the European Council. The latter issue was disputed by Spain and Poland, who had obtained key concessions in the Nice Treaty.

However, the Irish Presidency hoped to complete the negotiations for the European Constitution by June 18th, presenting a successful conclusion. The referendum concession by Blair to the British public has ensured that Jack Straw takes a far less conciliatory approach at the IGC in order to maintain the well publicised if far less significant 'redlines'. Less reported is the downfall of the Polish government and the inability of the weak political parties in Warsaw to appoint a successor administration.

Arriving at talks Polish foreign minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz was downbeat about prospects, after, he claimed, making three attempts to broker deals.

“If it goes on like that, I would not bet on an agreement,” he said.

The Warsaw government’s hardline approach to fighting Poland’s corner is compounded by domestic turmoil.

The current acting premier Marek Belka has already lost one vote of confidence in Poland’s parliament and faces another in early June.

A beleaguered and caretaker Warsaw, caution EU officials, may not feel able to sign or compromise on a European constitution.

The domestic requirements of Britain and Poland are effectively preventing the completion of the constitutional talks, and exasperating the Irish desire to meet their deadline. Completion may yet require concessions to Blair and a populist supported administration in Poland.

(22.57, 17th May 2004)


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