12th Apr 2024

Prodi proposes to chop down EU constitution

Italy's prime minister Romano Prodi has called for a slimmed-down version of the EU constitution, echoing proposals for a "mini treaty" made by French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.

In an interview with French daily Le Monde on Wednesday (13 September), Mr Prodi said the lengthy text of the EU constitution which was rejected by French and Dutch voters last year should be trimmed down in order for it to have a second chance.

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"In my opinion it is possible to restart the constitutional project, but in a greatly simplified form," the Italian leader stated.

"The third chapter cannot be approved in its current state," he said, referring to Part III of the document which is a detailed description of EU policies and decision-making methods.

The third part of the EU constitution is seen by experts as a major reason why the French referendum on the charter failed, with the "no" campaign arguing the Part III provisions cemented a free market economic course for the union.

One of France's top presidential candidates, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, last week also proposed to ditch the whole third part of the constitution, pleading for a "mini treaty" instead.

Mr Sarkozy's "mini treaty" would include key provisions of Part I of the constitution such as member states' voting weights provisions and plans to create an EU foreign minister, on which there is a "large consensus."

But simply skipping Part III of the constitution is seen by experts as problematic, as this chapter also includes a list of policies where the constitution proposes to improve decision-making in the EU by lifting the national veto.

"We have to take another look at operational aspects too," said Mr Prodi. "In a Europe of 25, and then 27, unanimity means a complete blockade."

Debate re-opened

On top of this, not all member states are likely to be happy with a simple sizing-down of the current text to parts I and II, defining the EU's institutions and values.

Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski suggested in August that Warsaw will re-open the debate on Poland's voting weights in Part I.

Warsaw plans to present detailed proposals for a new charter to the upcoming German EU presidency early next year, Mr Kaczynski explained, predicting that the federalist-sounding text "will probably need to change its name."

Mr Prodi said that "the political debate - especially with basic proposals - could be relaunched on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 2007."

But he added that "nothing can happen until the French elections" in May 2007.

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