Failure in December – but success in June! At their just-concluded Brussels summit the European Union’s now twenty-five members finally accepted a draft to put forward to their constituent parliaments and/or voters as the new European Constitution. Perhaps this summit’s productive result can be ascribed to the rotating EU presidency being held now by Bertie Ahern and the diplomatically-astute Irish, whereas Italy and Silvio Berlusconi were in charge last December – the Council presidency will cease to rotate this way once the new Constitution is enacted, by the way – or maybe it was all due to the new governments in place in Spain and Poland, the two “medium-sized” EU states that were the principle obstacles to progress at the last summit in December. One thing is sure, though: France and Jacques Chirac were once again in the middle of the goings-on, and so a review of French reporting and comment is appropriate. (Tony Blair was also a leading protagonist – or at least according to the French press, as we shall see – but I’ll let you read the on-line British papers about that yourself – and pay for it, in the case of The Times.) (more…)
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…)
Going into the first day of the EU’s Brussels summit on Friday, the one that is supposed to result in an agreed-upon text for a new Constitutional Treaty, most of the European press is not in an optimistic mood that such an agreement can be reached. The word “miracle” (in whichever local language variant) – as in, what that will likely require – figures prominently in many headlines.
For a review of that European press coverage, I think I’ll just refer you to Deutsche Welle’s English-language “European Press Review” (a link that I myself found out about from the scottymac blog). At least they also cover Austria and Italy, which I don’t, but do allow me to mention the essential superficiality of that press review, in light of the comprehensive reading that I’ve already done of the treatment in today’s European press of the run-up to the summit. (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…)
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…)
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…)