Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing has warned that any attempt to alter the draft European Union constitution will "tear Europe
The draft was formally handed over at a ceremony in Rome
Mr Giscard d'Estaing headed the constitutional convention which agreed the draft, which significantly changes the way the EU is run as it prepares to enlarge.
It introduces the posts of president and foreign minister of the bloc, and simplifies decision-making by reducing individual members' powers of veto.
But there are lingering worries among EU member states, and there is still much talking to be done before the constitution is formalised.
The former president made his comments as he formally handed the document over to the current EU President, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, at a ceremony in Rome on Friday.
He told Mr Berlusconi and representatives of other EU member
states that trying to change the draft would unravel delicate compromises agreed
during 16 months of negotiations.
"Our proposal goes, I think, as far as is possible in the
political, social and cultural climate of Europe today," Mr Giscard
"Wanting to go beyond that, we will tear Europe apart, when it
has just been reunified. It's a risk which nobody has a right to
Mr Berlusconi, a media magnate turned politician whose outspoken comments have angered many of his EU partners, will now seek solve remaining differences between member states at an inter-governmental conference due to start on 4 October in Rome.
He has made the wrapping up of the negotiations by the end of December a goal of Italy's six-month EU presidency.
The conference will draw together representatives of the current 15 members as well as the 10 incoming
states which will officially join the EU on May 1, 2004.
It is proposed that all 25 members will sign a treaty introducing the constitution on 9 May.
Mr Berlusconi backed Mr Giscard
"We have to take care that this dossier is not re-opened and
turned upside down," he said.
Mr Berlusconi, who provoked anger this month by
comparing a German deputy to a Nazi concentration camp guard,
said that the former French president had advised him to display "gentle
violence" during the forthcoming negotiations.
"In Italy, people say that I am too nice," he told reporters.
"In this case, I'll
try to be a bit nasty to make sure that the European
constitution is a success."