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13th Apr 2024

Prague and Warsaw brief Merkel on EU charter plans

  • Prague: Angela Merkel hopes to come up with a plan to salvage the constitution by the end of June (Photo: European Commission)

Prague will press for a substantially revised EU constitution that is easier to understand and takes "smaller steps" on integration and Warsaw's proposal will better reflect EU reality than the existing draft charter, German chancellor Angela Merkel learned over the weekend.

An exchange on EU affairs dominated Mrs Merkel's first official trip to the Czech Republic on Friday (26 January), with the German EU presidency keen to come up with a plan on how to salvage the European constitution, put on ice after its rejection by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

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The Czech Republic is one of nine member states that shelved their own plans for the new treaty's ratification, as the draft constitution needs unanimous approval by all 27 countries before it can enter into force.

After a debate with the Czech centre-right prime minister Mirek Topolanek, Mrs Merkel said she was content with "a very interesting framework for future detailed discussion," suggested by her Czech counterpart.

Mr Topolanek told journalists Prague favours a revised treaty which would be "more understandable for people" while clearly defining "which competencies the EU has and which fall to the national states," according to press reports.

The Czech president Vaclav Klaus, a well-known critic of the European charter, said he shared Mrs Merkel's view about the need to resolve the impasse surrounding the constitutional crisis.

But he argued it must be done in "small steps" and not with the current constitution proposal. "To be honest, I must say I think that the chancellor thinks it is possible [to save the current text]. So now the question is whether our views differ a lot or just a little," Mr Klaus said.

Warsaw to give clear answer in March

Just a day before Mrs Merkel's visit, Czech president Vaclav Klaus met with his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski, with both leaders expressing their scepticism about the chances for a revival of the existing EU constitution.

Their views came in contrast to the statement by 20 countries represented in a meeting in Madrid on Friday (26 January) who argued the substantial part of the charter should be retained.

Luxembourg Europe minister Nicolas Schmidt said the Czech and Polish opposition stand as "two voices against twenty" and they should not be "overestimated" adding "Europe can't make progress at the minimalist basis."

Polish president Lech Kaczynski announced on his website that Warsaw would unveil the full proposal on the constitution's revision in March, suggesting his proposals "would benefit the union but also reflect its current reality."

According to Polish media, two Polish "sherpas" - the president's appointees for constitution talks with the German EU presidency - Ewa Osniecka-Tamecka and Marek Cichocki are supposed to meet the German officials on Monday (29 January).

The bi-lateral meeting is part of a negotiation timetable suggested by the German chancellor under which member states would first debate a declaration to mark the EU's 50th birthday and later in February the charter's revision itself.

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