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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 00:50 GMT
Reform of EU presidency mooted
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (left) and French President Jacques Chirac
Both leaders said the plan was a compromise
France and Germany are to propose a plan for a new dual presidency for the European Union.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing
Valery Giscard d'Estaing heads the EU Convention
The EU would be led by a European Commission president and the head of the Council of Ministers.

French President Jacques Chirac made the announcement after talks in Paris with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

One of the co-presidents would be elected by the European Parliament, and the other by European Union ministers, said Mr Chirac.

Correspondents say that the plan could have a decisive effect on efforts by the EU's Convention on the Future of Europe to prepare a constitutional treaty for the EU.

Franco-German motor

The two leaders did not elaborate on the proposed relationship between the co-presidents, saying only that the plan satisfied both Paris and Berlin.

Mr Chirac said that France had accepted Germany's proposal that a Commission president would be elected by the European Parliament.

Germany, he said, had agreed with Paris that a Council of Ministers president would be elected by a qualified majority of EU ministers for either a five-year or a two-and-a-half-year term.

Mr Schroeder described the plan as an acceptable compromise which would strengthen the Commission and the European Parliament.

Correspondents say the two leaders have been eager to give new life to the so-called Franco-German motor, which has driven the EU in the past but has been stalled recently because of a number of disputes.

Musical chairs

The proposal for reforms to the EU's top job was first put forward by Mr Chirac, who has already won broad support from the UK, Spain, Italy and Sweden.

It is unpopular with some of the smaller EU states, and with members of the European Commission.

At present, the EU presidency rotates among the member countries every six months.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, writing in the Economist, has complained about the "musical chairs" system currently in place.

"I therefore support Jacques Chirac's proposal for a full-time president of the European Council, chosen by and accountable to the heads of government," wrote Mr Straw.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Steven Sackur
"Using the combined weight of the Franco-German axis to mould the EU's constitution"
See also:

30 Apr 01 | Europe
26 Feb 02 | Europe
13 Dec 01 | Europe
30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
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