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24th Oct 2020

No cherry-picking of EU constitution, say Europe's conservatives

The biggest pan-European political party has called for continued ratification of the EU constitution and strongly rejected cherry-picking from its proposals.

But, despite this, several leading centre-right politicians have hinted that at least slight changes may be necessary to revive the treaty.

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The European People's Party on Friday (31 March) agreed a manifesto following its party congress in Rome, which argues that the bloc's current "political problems and institutional weaknesses...will persist and grow" unless the constitution is brought into force.

"Therefore the EPP proposes that the process leading to the ratification of a European Constitutional Treaty should be continued after the period of reflection," states the document.

The ‘period of reflection’ was agreed by EU leaders in June 2005, following the negative outcomes of the French and Dutch referendums on the constitution.

The Dutch delegation at the congress argued against continued ratification and instead suggested that a new text needs to be drawn up.

"If we continue with the ratification process it may seem as if there will be a referendum on the same text in our country and that is impossible," Jean Pender from the Dutch CDA told the EUobserver.

However, the Dutch amendment to the manifesto has been rejected, with French party members voting against it, as well.

Moreover, the EPP approved by a large majority a statement filed by the Spanish MEP Gerardo Galeote which stressed the conservatives' support for the draft constitution as a whole and "firmly rejecting the idea of 'cherry-picking'."

"It would be a fraud to both the Dutch and other European citizens if we tried to pick some parts of constitution and introduce them through the back door," said Gerardo Galeote.

Ideals and realism

But the idea of at least a partial revision of the treaty was spelled out by several keynote speakers at the Rome congress.

"We need a constitutional treaty. It may not be literally the same text but we need to introduce some essential proposals included in the existing treaty," Luxembourg prime minister Jean Claude Juncker said in his speech on Friday.

French centre-right hopeful for 2007 presidential elections Nicolas Sarkozy also suggested political leaders should "re-assemble" and "struggle with the text" and set some timetable to agree on potential changes.

According to Mr Pender, French politicians as well as others debating the EPP's manifesto expressed a similar opinion about it being unrealistic to revive the EU constitution in its current form.

"But they prefer not to be outspoken about it at this moment because it would be a signal that the EPP has buried the constitution," he added.

"Several people came to me during our meeting and they told me - we agree with you and your point but this is the wrong timing. We are now in the reflection period, so just wait a little bit for the German presidency and then we will find a solution."

"Maybe the Dutch people spoke too early, but it is an illusion to think that you can put forward the same text to them for another referendum," he added.

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