3rd Dec 2023

Ireland ups the pressure on Constitution talks

Following a commitment by EU leaders to finish the Constitution by 18 June, the Irish EU Presidency has started to apply some public pressure.

Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern has written to member states asking them to take a "positive and focussed approach, concentrating on those questions which are of real significance".

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  • Dublin - The Irish Presidency will have to steer a tight course on the negotiations (Photo: Irish Presidency)

Mr Ahern has also arranged that the formal intergovernmental talks on the Constitution at ministerial level once again be resumed - until now discussions have been conducted at bilateral level to test the ground after the collapse of the Constitution summit in December.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers later this month, 26 April, will discuss how the timetable should be set out.

The Irish prime minister's letter says that the Presidency is "taking a positive and focussed approach, concentrating on those questions which are of real significance to you and aiming to reach constructive compromises. I assume and expect that no concerns not already signalled will be raised".

The timetable will be crucial.

Dublin will have to ensure that the talks between foreign ministers are constructive enough to ensure that as many issues as possible are cleared from the table before EU leaders gather for their crucial summit on 17-18 June.

This is acknowledged by Mr Ahern who has said to his EU counterparts that "only a small number of highly sensitive points" should remain open for their June meeting.

EU leaders are keen to avoid a repeat of the summit on the Nice Treaty in 2000 which saw bitter negotiations stretch on for days.

Simmering points

The sticking points continue to be the proposed new voting system, the number of Commissioners and the number of MEPs in the European Parliament.

A number of other issues continue to simmer as well, particularly as the talks enter their final stretch once again.

The Financial Times reports that the UK wants national parliaments to have the power to veto new EU legislation that they believe encroaches on national sovereignty.

Other issues such as whether Christianity should be mentioned in the text also have to be solved.

On top of this, talks have been delayed by the fact that the new Spanish government will only be sworn in this week; and the fact that the Polish prime minister will step down on 2 May.

Both of these countries have been hard negotiators on the Treaty blueprint resisting pressure until the last minute to give in to the new voting system.

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