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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 02:23 GMT 03:23 UK
Giscard calls for EU president

By Chris Morris
BBC Europe correspondent

Valery Giscard D'Estaing opens convention session
Giscard says the EU should have a full-time president
The man leading the convention which is debating the future of the European Union has formally proposed that the EU should have a full-time president.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing wants the role filled by a current or former head of state or government.

The convention, which is meeting again in Brussels this week, is trying to decide how best the EU will function when it expands next year from 15 to 25 member states.

It is due to present a draft constitutional treaty to a European summit in Greece in two months' time.

The convention is now tackling the big issues head on: Who in the future will run the EU? Who will hold real power?

Mr Giscard d'Estaing says there should be a full-time president to replace the current system in which the presidency is given to a different member state every six months.

He also wants a vice-president - to achieve geographical balance, his spokesman says, and allow power to be shared between bigger and smaller EU countries.

Other innovations include a foreign minister and a bureau led by the new president which would co-ordinate all EU activity.

Chaired by Valery Giscard d'Estaing
Holding year-long discussions
Aims to simplify treaties
Trying to decide balance of power between Brussels and governments

Mr Giscard d'Estaing has proposed slimming down the European Commission, the EU's executive body, but strengthening its mandate.

Finally he argues in favour of a new congress which would include members of the European parliament and national parliaments.

It is a complex set of proposals designed to offer something to everyone.

But it will be criticised both by the commission and by smaller EU states who fear power could swing too far towards the big countries like Germany, Britain and France.

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