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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
EU constitution 'can be simple'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (file photo)
Angela Merkel says agreement on the treaty is "still not in sight"

An EU summit next week may agree to re-name the European constitution and re-package it as a simple treaty, a report by German officials suggests.

But the report, seen by the BBC, says this "major concession" will only be made if the "substance" of the original deal is preserved.

Germany will be chairing the summit in Brussels, which may agree the outline of a treaty replacing the constitution.

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell says the report poses some problems for the UK.

He says several areas would be difficult for British leaders to sell to the British public without a referendum.

The UK government expects to be given a kicking over the new treaty, no matter what
BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell

The constitution was signed by EU member states in 2004, but was rejected by French and Dutch voters in referendums in 2005.

British, French and Dutch politicians have argued that the treaty must be simplified to prevent the need for further referendums.

It has not been general practice, in most member states, to put routine amendments of EU treaties to a public vote.

'Important' days

The German proposals are also likely to be unwelcome in Poland, because they say nothing about changing the voting system at meetings of the 27 governments.

Poland has threatened to block the new constitution, unless its demands are met, but is coming under intense pressure to drop its objections.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy held talks with his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski, on Thursday, and Mr Kaczynski is due to travel to Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday.

"We think that during these days of extreme importance, June 21 and 22, that we will reach a compromise and all member states will come away from the summit fairly satisfied," Polish President Lech Kaczynski told a news conference after his meeting with Mr Sarkozy.

Single legal personality

Our Europe editor says the Germans are proposing that the treaty would give the European Union a "single legal personality".

This would allow it to join international organisations, or sign international agreements, and is opposed by some who see the EU weakening the role of nation states.

The report also lists a number of sticking points, where further discussions are needed.

These include:

  • Whether or not to mention symbols, such as the EU flag and anthem
  • Whether or not to include the Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • The delimitation of competences between the EU and member states
  • The role of national parliaments
  • Aspects of EU foreign policy

The report does say that the Charter of Fundamental Rights, signed in 2000, should be made legally binding - a move opposed by some governments, including the UK.

Ms Merkel told the German parliament on Thursday that agreement on the new treaty was "still not in sight".

But she said she nonetheless hoped next week's summit would take a clear step forward and produce a "roadmap" to a new treaty by 2009.

Germany wants the summit to issue a mandate for an intergovernmental conference, which would agree the details of the new treaty later this year.

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