Will "roadmap" for EU treaty get passed in Brussels?

UPDATED: 15:39, June 19, 2007

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, or the EU rotary chairman country, has appealed to EU nations to support a roadmap she has proposed after her active consultations with them for the revival of the "EU charter treaty" that had been agrounded in 2005. She will present the roadmap on Thursday, or June 21 to the EU summit for discussion in a hope of having it passed by the EU member nations before the election of the European Parliament in 2009.

On the question of whether the roadmap will get passed smoothly at the incoming summit in Brussels, Li Jingwei, a People's Daily desk editor, has had a dialogue with its overseas reporters Lu Hong, Jin Zhao and Li Yongqun. The detailed contents of their dialogue are as follows.

Desk Editor: What are the main contents of the roadmap restarted by the EU "rotary chairman country (Note: Germany holds the EU Presidency until the end of June) and what efforts Chancellor Angela Merkel has done in this regard?

Lu Hong (PD resident reporter in Germany): On the eve of the EU-Summit on June 21/22, Chancellor Angela Merkel read out a statement in the Lower House of Parliament last Thursday, or on June 14, appealed to get her roadmap passed at the EU Summit, which is designed to restart the EU charter (or constitution) treaty.

Main contents of the roadmap are to substitute a new, revised treaty for the original version of the EU charter treaty. The new EU treaty contains the core contents of the original copy, but deletes some wording or statements that are similar to those characteristic of the state, so as to dispel worries of some EU countries about the EU being turned into a superpower.

Chancellor Merkel has conducted "intense consultations" with EU member nations before the EU Summit that is due to open on June 21. Germany especially invited Polish President Lech Kaczynsk to visit Berlin and held talks with him mainly on the issue of the "EU charter treaty" last Saturday, or on June 16, but so far no breakthrough was scored. And only a day later, on Sunday, or June 1, Mrs. Merkel visited Luxemburg and held talks with Prime Minister Jean Claude Junckev (L). Merkel stressed during the talks that EU member nations need to display the spirit of "comprise" so as to cope with the crisis of the EU constitution, whereas Prime Minister Junckev expressed optimism toward the summit as well as his readiness to do some "persuasion" along with Merkel.

Desk Editor: Leaders of the EU nations will confer on the EU constitution in the Brussels summit and, Poland, as a young EU member nation after the EU eastward enlargement, then what position it holds on the voting mechanism of the EU constitution enacting?

Jin Zhao (PD resident reporter in Poland): The key topic for the EU summit is to restart talks on EU constitution enacting, and the crucial step forward is to empower governments of various countries to negotiate on the distribution of the rights to vote. The EU Council and EU Ministerial Council will make decisions based on the voting mechanism of an "effective majority", but Poland considered this mechanism unfair. In the meanwhile, Poland insists on the "square root" of the EU voting system and Prime Minister Jaroslav Kaczynki publicly declared Warsaw would stick to the "square root" principle. So, Poland has become the focus of attention among the EU nations in one week prior to the summit. To shake off the impasse, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero visited Poland. And Polish President Lech Kaczynsk went to Germany to confer with Chancel Merkel on the distribution of the voting rights, but they both did not retreat on their respective stances though all parties concerned appealed for mutual reconciliation and understanding after their talks.

To soften the blow, the Poles now want to fix voting rights not according to populations, but according to the "square root" of those populations. Both Polish president and prime minister, the twin brothers Lech and Javoslav Kaczynski, have repeatedly vowed that Poland is "willing to die" to get the voting system it wants in the 27-member bloc, insisting that Warsaw wants the voting system to be based on the "square root" of the population of each country.

Desk Editor: What effect will Poland's position produce in the course of Europe's integration?

Jin Zhao: Poland has taken on a momentum for its high-speed economic growth since its joining of the EU in 2003 and, to date, it has received a financial aid of 70 billion euros from EU, and the country has been one of the biggest beneficiary nations in EU. So even the former skeptics of the EU, today, too, agree to the view that such a powerful bloc as EU also conform to the interests of small countries like Poland.

As far as its adherence to the "square root" voting mechanism, however, it is real hard for the vast majority of the EU nations to change their positions, even if Poland uses its veto power, and Poland has suggested continuing to negotiate at the summit on the issue of the rights to vote.

Moreover, in the 27 nation-bloc, only the Czech Republic alone explicitly voiced its support to Poland, and it softened its stance prior to the summit, nevertheless. If Poland really turns to its veto power at the summit, it will possibly stall the integration process, which might marginalize the country itself.

Furthermore, it is quite interesting that people are still clear whether President Lech Kaczynski or Prime Minister Jaroslav Kacznski will attend the summit this time. If the situation is not what they have expected, noted Prime Minister Jaroslav Kacznski, he will go to veto the EU charter treaty talks on behalf of his country and, if the situation is optimistic, his twin brother President Lech Kaczyski will attend the summit.

Desk Editor: The process of the EU constitution enacting does not seem a plain sailing.

Li Yongqun (PD resident reporter in Brussels): Yes, indeed, and there exist relatively great differences among the EU members in revising the contents of the EU constitution on the eve of the summit. Apart from the focus of contention with respect to the voting mechanism, the EU member nations still have disparities on the annulment or registration or the addition or deletion of the charter treaty, institutional reform and the EU enlargement despite the agreement they had reached on taking the EU treaty as the basis for discussions of a new framework of EU after its enlargement.

Differences can be divided into four categories by and large, in accordance with positions of the EU nations: The first category comprising those nations that hope to keep the existing version of the treaty are the 18 countries which have ratified the EU charter treaty; the second category consists of the above 18 countries which have ratified the EU charter treaty, plus the four other countries yet to ratify the treaty, namely Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and Demark, who not only hope to retain the existing version of the treaty but add new clauses concerning the specific realm of politics; France and the Netherlands, which had failed to win the recognition of the treaty via national referenda in 2005 belong to the third category and; in the fourth category are Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic which had been skeptical of the EU, disagree with and are even in opposition to the existing treaty and hope to re-discuss some crucial parts of the treaty.

In spite of all these problems, Germany, or the EU rotary chairman country, still hopes to agree on the roadmap for a new EU treaty at the Brussels. Chancellor Merkel said she deemed there was a great possibility to get the roadmap through, adding that she could hardly image other EU nations would sit idle at the time when one nation attempts to block everything. Meanwhile, Luxemburg Prime Minister Jean Claude Junchev (L) said during his meeting with Mrs. Merkel that he could anticipate more evidences to reach the agreement than breaking down the talks.

By People's Daily Online

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