9th Apr 2020

Berlin and Madrid: no agreement on Constitution

Spain and Germany - seen by some as hardliners in their opposing stances on voting weights in the future Constitution - have been unable to come to an agreement on this thorny issue, despite two days of talks.

Berlin - along with Paris and London - supports the proposed new system of voting, known as the 'double majority'. Under this system, decisions would be reached with a majority of member states representing at least 60% of the EU's population.

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But Spain fears that the big four - the UK, Germany, France and Italy - could use the new system to block any proposals they do not agree with. The Spanish premier José Maria Aznar favours keeping the voting system thrashed out in the Nice Treaty, whereby Spain wields almost as much power as Germany.

Spain's position is backed by Poland and several smaller states.

Mr Schröder said after the meeting, "Unexpectedly, we have not been able to sort out these differences of opinion today". Mr Aznar said there were "certain institutional divergences that we are not hiding".

No solution before December

The German Chancellor repeated his belief that there would be no solution to this problem before the Intergovernmental conference in Rome on 12 and 13 December.

EU leaders are set to meet in the Italian capital in an effort to come to an agreement on the new Constitution, but so many differences remain that many observers now think negotiations will continue into 2004.

Defence also a problem

The future EU Constitution was not the only sticking point between the two countries.

Mr Aznar repeated Spain's concern that a proposed Franco-German EU defence plan could undermine NATO - something that Mr Aznar’s government, a staunch ally of the US, is determined to avoid.

But Mr Schröder dismissed such fears, saying that there was no question of setting up the EU in competition with NATO.

All good friends, really

Despite these differences, both men were at pains to stress the friendly relations between the two countries. Mr Schröder said that the talks took place "in a spirit of friendly co-operation", according to German daily Die Welt.

For his part, Mr Aznar said that the two had found time to have some fun together and praised Mr Schröder's reform efforts.

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