9th Apr 2020

Sweden, Finland, Ireland call for time to debate EU constitution

Sweden, Ireland and Finland have called for a "period of reflection" between the handing over of the Convention's draft constitution and the beginning of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to fine tune the details.

At the general affairs council on Tuesday, Ireland and Finland backed a statement by the Swedish representative calling for time between the conclusion of the Convention and the IGC.

Finland asks for six months

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For Finland this means six months. The government already agreed with its parliament last week that time was needed for public debate on the matter. A spokesman said "this needs time to mature and be thoroughly thought about." "We have nothing against a Rome to Rome Treaty" said the spokesman referring to Italy's hopes to replace the 1957 founding Rome Treaty with another Rome Treaty, "but not necessarily in this Italian presidency [the second half of this year]."

The Irish fear lack of public debate

The Irish are similarly cautious about deflating the Italian dreams. "We are not proprietary about the IGC" said a spokesperson as Ireland will take over the six month presidency after Italy, "we just feel strongly about the need to have time for debate," and to "put the results for discussion" in the parliament. Ireland is not looking for a particular time frame, but is well aware of the Nice Treaty debacle where lack of public debate led to a low turn out and a rejection of the Treaty in the first referendum.

Swedish euro referendum in the way

For Sweden there is also the small matter of the referendum on the euro. This will take place on September 14. "We cannot have two public debates at the same time," said a Swedish diplomat. "Amalgamating the two [debates] will not be good for the euro," he added. "Maybe it is possible to start the IGC during the Italian presidency, said a spokesperson at the Swedish EU representation. But finishing it during the Italian presidency is another question. "Around six months" would be needed for public debate.

Rights of future member states

The rights of the ten future member states must also be considered. Due to join the Union on 1 May 2004, "their needs have to be taken into account too." "Ireland wants maximum participation of the candidate countries." The Swedish minister also referred to the rights of the future member states on Tuesday. "We're not suggesting that the IGC only starts in May 2004, but that it continues until then," said a diplomat.

Italy wants IGC as soon as possible

"It is not a question of prestige to have another Treaty of Rome," said an Italian spokesperson, "it is a question of time." "If we don't sign the Treaty before the end of the year, too much will be added to the debate." France and Germany also want the IGC to be completed as soon as possible. In their joint paper on the future architectural make-up of the EU, they call for the Constitution to be "ready in the shortest time ... preferably before the end of the year."

The Convention, which is still working on the future constitutional treaty, is due to present the final product to member state governments at the Thessaloniki Summit in June.


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