Friday

3rd Feb 2023

Constitution talks take place in difficult political atmosphere

  • Time is running out (Photo: EUobserver)

Today foreign ministers will gather in Naples for what is supposed to be the second last major meeting of governmental talks on the making of an historic EU Constitution.

However, the meeting, which was set to be rather low key, is now taking place in a politically charged atmosphere following the stability pact crisis earlier this week.

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Recriminations have been flying back and forth after Germany and France escaped sanctions for breaching the euro rules.

The divisions caused by the euro decision reflect one of the main fault lines in the Constitution debate – big against small countries – and may result in governments continuing to speak from very national-oriented platforms.

It is also likely to strengthen the case of Poland and Spain who are fighting hard not to have their voting weights reduced in a future Europe as well as smaller countries fighting for ‘their own’ Commissioner.

Again, France and Germany are on the other side of the fence in demanding that the draft be kept as close to the original as possible.

Revival?

In a bid to revive the talks which have been lagging for several weeks, the Italian Presidency presented a compromise deal which will be examined closely by ministers in Naples today and tomorrow.

But although it has cleared the air in some places by suggesting making treaty revision more flexible, narrowing the role of the public prosecutor and giving reassurances on the importance of NATO, it has added to the difficult atmosphere in other places.

The UK has already indicated that it will reject the Constitution if plans to take away the veto in common foreign and security policy are maintained - as has been proposed.

Similarly, the European Central Bank has also entered the fray by demanding that the Italian proposal which suggests that the make up of the bank's governing board be changed by unanimous decision rather than treaty revision, be changed.

It fears the change will lead to more politicised interventions in the euro zone.

Political background

In the background of today's meeting will be several important issues: that the European Commission has suffered two big defeats this week - on the euro rules and on the takeover directive - and that new member states have been exposed to the fact that when large member states want something, then they get it.

Moreover, what is to be tackled today is just the tip of the Constitutional iceberg.

The Naples meeting will determine whether the much needed political momentum is gathered for the planned last meeting on the Constitution in Brussels in two weeks.

At this meeting EU leaders have to work out a deal on the real issue that they have all been skirting around for the last months – the balance of power in a future European Union.

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