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Fischer: "We want a constitution for Europe!"

Fischer: "We want a constitution for Europe!"

The heads of state and government of the European Union (EU), as well as the ten acceding countries, are to meet for the biannual European Council on Friday and Saturday.

The government conference starts as early as Friday afternoon. The most important item of the weekend's agenda: the draft European Constitution.

The European Union is to set its course for the future over the next few days. The last hurdle, the resolution on a joint constitution, is yet to be cleared. It is uncertain whether the heads of state and government of the European Union will reach an agreement in Brussels at the weekend.

The European Union needs a constitution

At present the EU is made up of 15 member states. On 1 May 2004 ten more states will join the EU. The next round of accessions is already planned for 2007. Therefore the EU needs a new working basis to remain manageable and able to take political action in the face of growing demands.

Dispute over details

Certainly there are significant differences of opinion in certain areas. The most important and yet undecided points of the draft constitution are:

Double majority in the Council of Ministers: every member state has one vote in decision-making. 50 per cent of the member states are required for consensus. At the same time these states must make up 60 per cent of the EU population.

Poland and Spain in particular feel this does not adequately represent them. According to the Treaty of Nice they have almost as many votes as Germany, but their population is only half as large.

The number of commissioners entitled to vote: the small states are arguing for one EU commissioner per country, so a total of 25. However, the draft constitution plans to limit the number of Commission members to 15.

>> The Treaty of Nice

The draft constitution from the German perspective

In his government statement before the German Bundestag on 11 December German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer presented the Federal Government's standpoint on the EU summit: "We support the results of the Convention," he said.

He added that this is after all not simply about national interests; it is also an historic response to the forthcoming enlargement. It is "in fact uncertain whether the heads of state and government will come to an agreement". However, "no result is better than a bad result". If in doubt, it's best to continue with negations, said Fischer.

The Federal Government also considers the most important point to be the "principle of double majority" proposed in the draft constitution. This regulation ensures a fair balance between small and large countries. In addition, it ensures that the interests of all EU citizens have an influence on decisions.

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