High-level group writes new-look EU treaty
By Honor Mahony
A small group of politicians from around the EU have published a repackaged treaty for the bloc, hoping to feed into the emerging consensus among member states that a "simplified treaty" has to be extracted from the ashes of the rejected EU constitution.
Unofficially known as the "Amato Group" - it is headed by former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato - the outfit's contribution comes at a crucial time in negotiations on creating a new-look treaty after the original EU constitution was rejected mid 2005.
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The 16-strong group, containing several former prime ministers as well as two current European Commissioners, has stripped the rejected constitution of its constitutional elements - including the article on the EU's symbols and the controversial "God-less" preamble - reduced the charter of fundamental rights to one legally binding article and say they do not mind if the proposed EU foreign minister ends up with another name.
Essentially, however, the main elements of the original constitution have been kept in. "We do not exclude that you reach the same final result," said Mr Amato at the unveiling of the document on Monday (4 June).
The treaty has been reduced to 70 articles (12,800 words) plus two protocols, one containing institutional changes and one containing policy innovations - by contrast the original EU constitution contained 448 articles and around 63,000 words.
The chopped down dimensions come from only taking the innovations contained in the third part of the treaty - which essentially ties together former EU treaties - and putting them into additional protocols.
Structurally speaking, the two protocols would be attached to the existing Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community.
The Amato treaty is the latest in a long line of proposals – MEPs and several academics have also been busy on this front – intending to provide the perfect solution for getting the EU out of the political impasse it has been in since French and Dutch voters said "no" to the EU constitution two years ago.
Mr Amato and his co-authors argue the strength of their position lies with being thorough and following through changes in one part of the text, with the technical and legal implications in another part of the text.
A bird in the hand…
Their re-packaged but pared down EU constitution also fits in with the current trend of discussion in member states toward a simplified treaty
Pushed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the new French president, and recently given backing by Spain and Italy, the phrase has been much bandied about but so far has only been elaborated on at press conferences.
When asked how his treaty differed from Mr Sarkozy's ideas – as it takes up much of what Mr Sarkozy has said is crucial for any new treaty - the former Italian prime minister replied "our treaty has been written."
Still, it is unclear how it is supposed to fit into the ongoing treaty discussions being run by the German EU presidency. For its part, Berlin is conducting behind-the-scenes negotiations to try and prepare the path ahead of the 21-22 June summit.
At the June meeting, they hope to be able to extract a concrete mandate for a new look treaty which will retain as much of the original constitution as possible but introduce enough changes to allow French and Dutch leaders to return to their parliaments with a text that looks different.