13th Dec 2018

Seven EU dwarfs to meet about Convention

The seven dwarfs, as the small member states belonging to the EU are sometimes called, will meet next Tuesday to discuss the future of the EU.

The Benelux countries plus Ireland, Portugal, Finland and Austria will come together in Luxembourg on 1 April to try and present a united front on the issues concerning the future make-up of the EU.

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They are likely to try and make some crucial new suggestions concerning the rotating Council presidency - an issue very dear to smaller countries' hearts.

While large countries want a permanent president, their smaller counterparts tend to strongly favour maintaining the current six-month rotation system which they see as guaranteeing them their stint at the helm of the EU and ensuring that the club is not just run by the big states.

But debate in the Convention tasked with drawing up an EU constitution has shown the position to be untenable as the large countries plus the Convention president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, are against maintaining the system.

Struggling to be heard

The seven heads of state and their foreign ministers will discuss an idea that the council president could be more longterm (two to three years) but should be a head of state at the same time.

This would suit smaller countries very well because it is unlikely that a leader from a big state could do both jobs simultaneously.

However commentators think that larger countries will probably not agree to this either. "I cannot see that they will agree to Malta running the whole show," said a diplomat from a large country.

But small countries will keep trying. A Luxembourg diplomat told the EUobserver it is about ensuring that Giscard knows there are not just four large member states in the future of Europe debate."

Their meeting next Tuesday comes before crucial talks between all EU leaders and the Convention president on 16 April in Athens, when the EU heads of states are to come together and sign accesstion treaties for ten new member states.

Here, big decisions about the EU's common foreign and security policy and institutional issues will be taken. Only after this will the Convention produce the corresponding treaty articles.

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