BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 22:17 GMT
Giscard's grand plan ruffles EU feathers
Demonstration during the EU's Laeken summit in Belgium
"United Europe" could be the way ahead

Valery Giscard d'Estaing presides over the European Union's Convention on the Future of Europe with a twinkle in his eye.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing unveiling the preliminary draft in Brussels
Giscard d'Estaing says the EU needs better brand image
Not known for his bashfulness, the former French President enjoys being the centre of attention.

And on those terms he's had a good week, because he's just produced the bare bones of a constitutional document which could shape the EU for the next 50 years.

It is a very preliminary draft. Much of the document is made up of chapter headings, with controversial issues still up for grabs.

'Ruffled feathers'

Mr Giscard d'Estaing said his main aim was to boost democracy and to simplify the workings of the EU.

Convention representatives

National governments and parliaments
European Commission
European parliament
13 candidate countries
Non-governmental organisations and academia

He has even come up with a new EU motto: "Liberty, Justice and Solidarity".

But he's also ruffled more than a few feathers.

In the face of opposition from British and other Convention delegates, he still wants to discuss changing the EU's name.

He argues that it needs a better brand image for the future, a fresh start.

His personal choice is "United Europe"... just one of many suggestions he's made which someone somewhere doesn't like.

Small states' fears

Governments of smaller EU countries have been queuing up to voice concern about proposals for a permanent president of the European Council.

Candidates shortlist
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Malta
Poland
Slovakia
Slovenia

They fear that will play into the hands of the big member states, seeking to dominate the Union.

At the moment, the presidency of the Council rotates among the 15 EU states every six months.

Already the system encourages a lack of continuity and clarity, and with plans to add 10 new countries to the EU in 2004, it would soon become even more unmanageable.

"We are ready to discuss ideas," conceded the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who's also the current Council President.

"But one must remember," he warned, "that the EU is based on the principle of equality among member states."

'Devil in detail'

Mr Giscard d'Estaing is thoroughly unperturbed by the controversy he is generating.

We have to be imaginative, he says of the Convention, we have to think big.

But the devil is, as always, in the detail. Many of the proposals in the draft are already coming under close scrutiny.

Would a country which took up a future option to withdraw from the EU, for example, have to abandon the Euro currency as well?

Would the proposal to form a new Congress of the Peoples of Europe - including European and national parliamentarians - bring the EU closer to its citizens, or simply add another layer of bureaucracy and expense?

The debate will be intense and it will often become heated... but it won't last for all that long.

The Convention has to produce a final constitutional document by the middle of next year.

EU heads of government will then have to turn it into a treaty to govern the Union after enlargement takes place in 2004.

Will Mr Giscard d'Estaing still be smiling then?

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Valery Giscard d'Estaing
"We want to have converging foreign policy."

Key stories

Europe's new frontiers

Background

CLICKABLE GUIDES

LaunchIN PICTURES

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

29 Oct 02 | Europe
26 Feb 02 | Europe
25 Oct 02 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes