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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 11:53 GMT
Europe's blueprints for reform
The Laeken summit may come to be remembered for starting a process leading to fundamental reform of the European Union.
It will set up a convention, made up of parliamentarians and government representatives from across Europe, who will debate the EU's future with trade unions, pressure groups and academics.
But since last year's Nice summit, a number of European leaders have already been outlining their own visions.
BBC News Online examines the differing stances of Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, the European Commission and the European Parliament on key issues - political union, defence and security, the constitution, and social policy.
Belgium offended a number of countries in the introduction to its draft Laeken declaration by painting a bleak picture of the EU as undemocratic, untransparent and distant from its citizens.
The remedies it proposes for this include:
The proposals were popular in Germany which also wants a stronger commission, but there were reservations from France, the UK and eurosceptic countries like Denmark.
In May, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder put forward his blueprint for Europe - a "federal" model similar to the structure of Germany itself. The main elements were:
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin rejects Germany's federal vision. He wants to build a closer union while preserving the "nation-state". His proposals include:
Last year, French President Jacques Chirac called for an inner core of EU members that could pursue faster integration - a "two-speed Europe". But the idea did not meet with general approval.
The UK Government hopes to be "at the heart of Europe" despite staying, for now, outside the eurozone. The UK public is deeply eurosceptic and afraid of giving up national powers to Europe. Up to two-thirds of the public is against joining the single currency.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested that a second chamber of the European Parliament could be formed from representatives of the national parliaments.
The parliament's blueprint emphasises the need for democratic accountability and transparency in the EU. Its demands include:
Defence and security:
After 11 September the European Union has tried to accelerate proposals for common security measures in order to combat the terrorist threat. It has also been pressing ahead with its plans for a rapid-reaction force.
The parliament says the aims of a common foreign, security and defence policy should particularly target terrorism. It also wants more integration on crime-fighting, bringing police and judicial co-operation under one umbrella.
With long experience of terrorism, the UK backs far-reaching security measures. It has proposed even tougher anti-terror legislation in its own national parliament than that under consideration by the EU. However, this may bring it into conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The UK was one of the instigators of the planned rapid reaction force but the idea has met some fierce objections from opposition parties.
But the government has stressed it will not replace or rival Nato and says it will improve European capabilities. It says it is not intended for fighting full-scale wars or contingencies where European security as a whole is threatened.
Germany has supported the setting up the rapid reaciton force and is expected to make a substantial contribution to it.
Prime Minister Jospin has proposed a long-term, co-ordinated defence policy for Europe. France is particularly concerned by the United States' plans for a missile defence programme.
The draft Laeken declaration includes a demand for a European constitution. Belgium also wants the Charter of Fundamental Rights, endorsed by EU leaders at last year's Nice summit, to be integrated into EU law. The charter sets out a range of civil, political and social rights.
Germany is keen for the EU to have its own constitution. The idea was supported in a speech last year by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and backed by Mr Schroeder.
Mr Jospin has proposed a European constitution, based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The UK is against a European constitution. The UK fears that if the Charter becomes legally binding it could undermine the UK's national sovereignty.
Parliament says that a new constitution for Europe must emerge from the 2003 inter-governmental conference. According to parliament, it should include the charter on fundamental rights.
Mr Jospin wants common social policies for Europe, based on state welfare and stricter worker protection laws.
France also wants a greater consultation with trades unions and a consumer protection network to ensure transparency about the origin of products, in response to the BSE crisis.
Germany broadly agrees with France on social issues. It has strong trade unions.
The UK is fiercely protective of its veto on social security questions and it won the right to keep its veto at last year's Nice Summit. However it has signed up to the Social Chapter.
Parliament wants member states to co-ordinate their economic policies more closely. It believes a more transparent European Central Bank and the consolidation of social policy would help achieve "social progress, security and well-being for Europe's citizens".
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