21st Oct 2020

Convention draws to a close

The Convention on Europe's Future will formally come to a close today bringing to an end 16 months of intensive work on the European Constitution.

Last minute changes made by the Presidium last night bow to France's wish to preserve its so-called "cultural exception".

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  • 1812 interventions and around 4000 minutes of speaking time later... (Photo: EUobserver)

This means that EU decisions on international trade negotiations on cultural and audiovisual services will be taken by unanimity "when there is a risk of affecting the Union's linguistic and cultural diversity".

After strong calls from the Convention floor, EU symbols such as the European flag and the anthem will be included in the text.

The remaining vestiges of member state vetoes - in fiscal and foreign policy areas - have been left.

There will be "no substantive debate" today, said Convention spokesman, Nikolaus Meyer Landrut.

6000 amendments

The draft text, which will now be handed on to member states to fine tune, is the product of a laborious chunk of the 105 Convention delegates' lives.

Starting in February 2002, the plenary session met 26 times with, by the time it gathered yesterday morning, 1812 interventions bringing the total speaking time to around 4000 minutes.

And, for the over-worked secretariat who surrounded Convention President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and inner team, there were over 6000 amendments to the suggestions that they made.

These, variously, had to be translated into French or English, put into the internet, printed, binned, revived, binned again, or, sometimes, miraculously, left as they were.

Ceremony upon ceremony

The Convention will finish by about 1pm today to be followed by a farewell lunch for all the delegates who have spent much of the past year cooped up in small rooms together hammering out deals on obscure or difficult parts of the constitution.

Before that the delegates will take part in a signature ceremony before a final smile for the 'family photo'.

Next week, their text will be borne to Rome by Mr Giscard for the intergovernmental conference which will start under the Italian presidency in October.


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