The decisive EU summit in Brussels this weekend to work out a final text of a Constitutional Treaty failed to achieve that aim. As had been expected, the principal stumbling-block was the question of the voting regime to be used for passing measures within the Council of Ministers by a “qualified majority”; both Poland and Spain stuck firmly to their demand that the current voting system, inaugurated by the December, 2000 Nice Treaty, be retained, while other states – principally the EU’s two biggest players, Germany and France – were equally as adamant that a new “double majority” system, proposed in the new Constitution, be implemented. But there were other points that had to be left for later resolution as well, as we’ll see. (more…)
Last week, while we here at EuroSavant were obsessing over the previous Sunday’s draw for the European Football Championship next summer, Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and several of his entourage were victims of a helicopter crash while returning to Warsaw from a visit to Silesia (the southwest part of Poland). No one was killed, but Miller himself sustained serious injuries to his back, and Polish newspapers all ran a photograph recently showing him lying in a hospital bed, all bandaged up although otherwise looking as hardy and self-composed as usual, with President Aleksander Kwasniewski sitting alongside.
According to Miller, his injuries won’t prevent him from attending the climactic EU summit in Brussels over the draft Constitution coming up this weekend, even if he has to show up there in a body-cast. In a recent analysis entitled The Poles Are Europe’s New Nay-Sayers, the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende points out that what is likely to be waiting for him there, at the least, are marathon negotiating sessions stretching long into the night “which can force even healthy politicians to their knees.” And that even means “healthy politicians” whose member-states have mainly stayed on the sidelines during the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), remaining above the acrimony. For the main protagonist in the process that the Poles have become, on the other hand, the coming days can be expected to bring not only long nights but also intense pressure. (more…)
Now that the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Naples of last weekend – part of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) for ratifying the draft Constitutional Treaty – is in the past, we transition to after-the-fact assessments. For this, why not go to Poland, one country that had a clear issue at stake at Naples, namely the retention it desires (together with Spain) of the voting-weights for the European Council set down in the 2000 Nice Treaty? Yes, this was one of the two big, knotty issues that was to be deferred for handling at the Brussels summit coming up on the 12th and 13th of December – but, to hear the Polish press tell it, there were plenty of developments at Naples on the “Nice question” nonetheless.
Let’s now go to the reporting of the run-up to that EU IGC in Naples (and its early going) in the Danish press. If you want championship coverage of just what was contained in that omnibus compromise proposal distributed last Tuesday by the foreign ministry of the current-EU president, Italy, the piece to turn to is Politiken’s article Denmark Concerned over Italian Proposal for Constitution. (more…)
We’re back “in the groove” now, as you’d expect we would be, since there are big things going on. Yesterday and today in Naples there has taken place a meeting of EU foreign minsters constituting the latest step in the process of formal negotiations over the proposed European Constitution collectively termed the “Intergovernmental Conference” (IGC). The French press covers the run-up to this meeting well. (Coverage of what is actually accomplished – if anything – will probably be available by Monday.) (more…)
Yesterday the European Union issued its final reports on the progress towards meeting required EU standards of the 10 accession nations scheduled to become members as of next May 1. Inevitably, the issue arose of rankings: which country was doing the best job in finally adhering fully to the EU’s vast body of laws and regulations known as the acquis communautaire, which country the worst. In this, Slovenia comes out on top, and Poland at the bottom – although, in an interview yesterday evening on the BBC World Service, enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen tried to downplay the question of rankings, claiming that it was no surprise that Poland had the most remaining problems, since it is the largest of the new member-states by far.
At the same time, Verheugen has made clear that each of these countries can face sanctions if it doesn’t get its act together. They don’t have to worry about being excluded from EU membership at the last minute, of course, but they could encounter things that could add a distinctly sour note to next May’s celebrations. These could include being hauled before the European Court of Justice or facing extraordinary “protection” measures from other EU states, such as tariffs on goods and/or restrictions on cross-border movements of their citizens.
If you’re willing to by-pass Verheugen’s “largest country” excuse, Poland’s place at the tail-end of the pack is rather ironic, considering the big trouble that country is stirring up in the ongoing Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to adopt an EU Constitution. Article foretaste: In Poland Threatens a Blockade, in yesterday’s Rzeczpospolita, deputy Polish foreign minister Jan Truszczynski explained how the “quality of the document” – i.e. getting its way on the EU Constitution – is far more important to Poland than mere questions of calendars and timetables. Although, in Waiting for Mutual Concessions in today’s edition of that paper, his boss foreign minister Cimoszewicz is quoted as declaring in Berlin that “we are ready to search for rational compromises.” But he also said that he expected such “compromises” to be attained by means of the German government changing its view on the European Council voting-weights arrangement that is at the center of controversy, and there is no sign that it is about to do that.
Let’s take a look at what one of the mainstays of the Polish press is saying about Poland’s having been singled out as class dunce. (more…)
We’ve seen Dutch premier Balkenende travel to Warsaw to try to break some of the stalemates blocking progress at the EU’s Constitutional Intergovernmental Conference (IGC): no dice. On Sunday, French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin basically tried the same thing, visiting Warsaw himself to have talks with Polish foreign minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, according to a report in Gazeta Wyborcza. (more…)
While suicide-bombs explode in Iraq, the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) over the draft EU Constitution goes on. Even though right now there is no actual meeting of government officials occurring, at whatever level, the daunting task still looms of somehow arriving at a Constitution all member-states can agree upon. One can strongly assume that the Italian Foreign Ministry is very busy now in gathering information and making bilateral contacts about how the IGC impassed can be broken. Meanwhile, the draft Constitution is also a topic of discussion as officials from other groups of EU member-states meet.
The Netherlands’ very own premier Jan Peter Balkenende is now on a swing through Eastern Europe, and on Monday he was in Warsaw, meeting with both the Polish president and premier, reports the NRC Handelsblad (Poland Remains Contrary over the EU’s Future). (more…)
As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution. (more…)
Bad news for EU taxpayers, at least those who rather expect some concrete results from their representatives at European Union fora in return for the tax-euros they are paid. (Come on now – could anyone really be so naïve?) I know you recall that EU summit in Brussels that took place yesterday and the day before – Chirac also spoke for Germany during yesterday’s session, remember? (Covered in €S from both the French and German points-of-view.) That was nice, a great symbolic gesture and all that, but more pertinent might be the fact that little of note was actually accomplished. At least so the French on-line papers say. (more…)
Even though I concluded in my previous weblog entry of earlier today (directly below) that it has had no practical effect on official Polish policy (yet) . . . I still think you might find interesting the “open letter to European Public Opinion, ” the brainchild of the editor-in-chief of the Polish quarterly Krytyka polityczna (“Political Critique”). The Le Monde article by new correspondent-in-Poland Christophe Châtelot which first drew my attention to it is here; and here is one of the places where you can refer to the Polish original (it’s in the middle of the page, under the “List otwarty . . .” heading) in case, say, you want to evaluate my Polish-to-English translation skills.
Click on “More…” to proceed to the English translation (you know we don’t want to take up valuable homepage space to impose this on €S visitors who aren’t the least bit interested in this sort of thing . . .) (more…)
Our old/new friend Christophe Châtelot, correspondent in Poland for Le Monde, is back at work, with an interesting new article (pointed out to me by EuroSavant habitué Chris K.), Two Hundred Polish Personalities Are Ready to Sacrifice for Europe. The brief piece concentrates on the 23-year-old figure of Slawomir Sierakowski, editor-in-chief of the quarterly review Krytyka polityczna, or “Political Critique.” Mr. Sierakowski is against the “Nice or Death” approach to the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the EU Constitution adopted by, according to him, “the [Polish] political and media establishment.” (For those coming in late, you can find €S background on “Nice or Death” here.) He says such an approach is likely to result in “a strong Poland within a weak EU,” a result he rejects. For good measure, he also considers unnecessary any explicit reference to the Christian faith in the Constitution’s preamble – not because he considers Christian values unimportant, but because he wants a Europe founded upon the widest base of values, and mentioning Christianity specifically could repel others or make them feel excluded.
To put these sentiments into action, Sierakowski drew up and publicized “an open letter to European opinion” (reproduced and discussed here, but in Polish; maybe I’ll translate it later, it’s not that long). He managed to gain the support (i.e. signatures) of around 200 other Polish intellectuals. And for many inside and outside of Poland, mainly those who earnestly hope that a final-form European Constitution can be agreed upon at the IGC, and who suspect Poland’s approach to that conference to be a mite unyielding and hard-core, this is a welcome gesture.
But will it have any true reverberations on the government, so that the Polish negotiating position is actually modified in some way? Or is just the combined voice of 200 Polish intellectuals crying out of the wilderness, so that “Nice or Death” is, so to speak, still alive and well? I went looking for an answer in the Polish on-line press. (more…)
The EU’s Nice Treaty of December, 2000, stands in the immediate background to the ongoing deliberations in Rome over the draft Constitution that began this past weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, should this attempt to arrive at a mutually-acceptable EU Constitution (or perhaps “constitutional treaty”) fail, the status quo of that Nice Treaty is what the EU will be left with, until (if/when) the next attempt at further institutional reform actually succeeds. As we also have seen, Nice has had a more direct influence on the Rome IGC, in that the advantageous voting allocation in the European Council awarded there to Spain and Poland – for whatever reason – has become a point of contention. Those countries seemingly refuse to agree to the draft Constitution terms which would have them give it up.
So we find just what the doctor ordered in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, namely a refresher on that Nice summit of almost three years ago was all about, in an article entitled Failed Nice Summit Continues to Play Tricks with the EU. (more…)
Yes, I’ve managed to kick my recent Danish fixation. And yes, that EU Constitutional Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) got underway this past weekend, starting with a one-day EU summit meeting on Saturday attended by heads of state and/or heads of government of all 15 current EU members, the 10 members-states which will join the EU at the beginning of next May, and 3 other states slated to join somewhat later as well (namely Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey). They were welcomed by current EU President Silvio Berlusconi, who called for an “act of will” from out of the assembled delegations, to come up with a version of the Constitution acceptable to all by Christmas. As President, Berlusconi got to speak first, and got to speak a little longer, and he was followed by five minutes’ remarks from European Commission president Romano Prodi, then European Parliament president Pat Cox, then from leaders of each of the 28 national delegations. “After everyone had spoken, basically nothing had been said, much less discussed,” comments Die Zeit’s article on the proceedings, Strength-of-Will, At Least up until Christmas, which, although I’m indebted to it for many of the above details, I found otherwise disappointing in its low quotient of actual analysis.
Maybe it was just too early to be able to say anything truly profound. Those heads of state/government couldn’t hang around for long – they’re a busy bunch of Euro-men and -women – meaning that it was their representatives, generally the foreign ministers, who were left behind to roll up their sleeves and start getting into the details. I’ve found good coverage about this part – the rest of the story, so to speak – in a series of articles from the Belgian on-line Gazet van Antwerpen. (more…)
Yes, its “Denmark Day,” but time now to go in a more serious direction, which is the Danish government’s approach to the EU Constitutional Intergovernmental Conference that opened this weekend in Rome. This event is naturally at the top of the Danish news, and is covered in all three leading nationwide, general-interest dailies, Politiken, Belingske Tidende, and Jyllands-Posten.
It turns out that there is important news to report, as it seems that Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen has altered his government’s policy towards the draft Constitution in a notable way as the IGC begins. (more…)
I’m back home, and back in business. And just a quick note for that subset of my clientele concerned (as am I) about the best Internet café in Prague: Unfortunately, the one I mentioned at the Narodni Galerie on Dukelskych hrdinu will shut down for good at the beginning of the week of 5 October. There were always free terminals to be had there, yes; but a normally welcome fact like that can also eventually backfire, when those in charge evaluate whether the facility is bringing in enough revenue to justify its existence.
The big event coming up soon from the EuroSavant perspective is the EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) for evaluating and (probably) amending, prior to official submission for approval to the 25 EU governments, the draft Constitution submitted last June by the European Constitutional Convention. One major thread to this story, it seems to me, is the hard line that the Polish government is taking in the run-up to this IGC, making its various demands for changes to the draft document clear and threatening to veto the whole process if it doesn’t get them. I noted this only obliquely in a recent entry which discussed the controversy over the proposed German “Center Against Expulsions” memorial for Berlin. But with the ICG due to start tomorrow, it’s time to zero-in on the topic – and fortunately, Le Monde’s new correspondent for Poland, Christophe Châtelot, does exactly that with what is his first dispatch in his new assignment, an article entitled Poland Goes on the Assault against Future European Institutions. (more…)
Meetings, meetings, meetings! But maybe that’s a foretaste of the soon-to-be EU of twenty-five members. As we noted, Tony Blair met on Saturday (20 Sept.) with Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac in Berlin. Then on Sunday he met back at Chequers (the British Prime Minister’s country residence) with Spanish premier José Maria Aznar. (Those were surely discussions most suited to Blair’s day of rest, as he and Aznar see much more eye-to-eye on international issues these days than do his interlocutors in Berlin.) As for Gerhard Schröder, he met yesterday with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller – just before flying yesterday evening to New York, for that all-important opening of the UN General Assembly and tête-à-tête with President Bush.
The German papers hardly gave front-page coverage to this meeting between Schröder and Miller (which took place at the conference center attached to the Schalke stadium in Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr area – Schalke are a famous German first-division football team, by the way). By and large that treatment was devoted to the overwhelming victory in the Bavarian state elections over the weekend for Edmund Stoiber’s Christian Socialist Union party – something that, unfortunately, EuroSavant isn’t all that interested in, although it has given rise to speculation that Stoiber is now rarin’ to take on Gerhard Schröder again in an electoral fight for the Chancellorship, when the time for that comes ’round again, of course.
That lack of press coverage was unfortunate, because Schröder and Miller had a lot to talk about in Gelsenkirchen. For one, they seem to have some hard-to-bridge differences over the draft EU Constitution, and this just a little over a week before the big EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) opens on October 4. Interestingly, according to an article previewing the Schröder/Miller summit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung entitled No Unbundling of the EU Constitution-Package, it looks like Germany is considering deploying its big financial guns to try to get its way here. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is quoted by the FAZ as saying as early as the beginning of September that, in his view, EU expansion, the adoption of the draft Constitution, and negotiations over EU finances – which have much to do with how much financial help of various kinds Poland gets upon entering the EU – all constitute an interrelated package. Subtext: If you want to get the money you expect, you better show some give on the Constitution. But let’s leave any further discussion of those negotiations to the near future. With the start of the IGC coming up soon, it’s guaranteed that we’ll get back to this subject soon, and in considerably more detail.
At their meeting, the German and Polish heads of government also devoted considerable time to a controversy that arose over the summer – but is still simmering – about a proposal to erect a memorial called the Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen or “Center Against Expulsions,” in Berlin. This has considerably strained relations with Germany’s neighbors to the east, not just Poland; and it’s a dispute that gives me the opportunity to display a neat picture on these pages – a magazine cover, sorta kinky! – for the first time. (But you’ll have to click on “More…” to see it – ha ha!) (more…)
It’s July 1, so the half-yearly presidency of the European Union changes hands again (for possibly the second-to-the-last time, if the EU Constitution, which changes this system, is ratified within the first half of 2004 as planned). Good-bye to Greece; ciao to Italy, specifically to Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minster. (more…)
Returning to Die Zeit – truly an excellent commentary newspaper, and very generous with what it’s willing to post on-line! – the article in its latest (on-line) issue (Der letzte Gipfel – “The Last Summit”) shows that the future which the EU has feared for so long has now arrived – whether it’s ready for it or not. (more…)
I’m continuing my coverage of the EU draft constitution, which was handed over last Friday by European Convention President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to EU member-states at the Thessaloniki European summit. Now it’s in their hands, to add to and subtract from as they see fit to agree (doing so formally in an Intergovernmental Conference which is due to start in mid-October), in preparation for ratification by all member-states separately in the spring of 2004. Considering now some of the German-speaking parts of Europe, reception of the draft here has been mixed – although, crucially, German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder has endorsed it. (more…)
With the presentation last Friday to the EU summit in Thessaloniki of the draft EU Constitution, the work of the European Convention headed by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing came to an end. Now the text is in the hands of the national governments of EU member-states, which will formally begin negotiations over changes to that draft at the EU Intergovernmental Conference to begin in the middle of next October. (more…)
Yes, the draft EU Constitution was presented yesterday by Constitutional Convention President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to the EU summit in Thessaloniki. It’s an important, interesting, and detailed step – although EuroSavant did cover in the last weekend in May the initial unveiling of that draft Constitution that occurred then. (Starting here with reactions from the EU member which paid the most attention to it – the UK.) In any case, apparently there were some (minor?) changes made to that draft between then and its formal, final presentation to EU leaders this weekend. Plus, it will be interesting to see how countries are lining up for and against that draft Constitution, in the run-up to the EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in which member-states will negotiate changes to this draft on the way to a final version of the Constitution which will then be put up for approval by all EU states (of which there will be 25 by that point). That IGC is supposed to convene next October, and it’s supposed to finish its work by December. (Good luck!)
This certainly merits some investigation, and that will be forthcoming. For this weekend, though, what caught my eye was the continuing Belgian-American tension over the former’s “genocide law” – see tomorrow’s weblog entry.