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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Merkel says EU needs constitution
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
It was the chancellor's first big European policy speech
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to revive the EU constitution, saying Europe needs to reduce bureaucracy and be "capable of action".

"We absolutely need the constitution to ensure the European Union is effective," she told German MPs.

Germany takes over the EU presidency from Finland on 1 January 2007.

Ms Merkel said a quarter of the EU's rules and regulations should be scrapped. "We must put the citizens first," she told Germany's lower house.

We need to think about how we make the constitution a success
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

She said political leaders needed to convince a sceptical public that the EU was a bonus in areas such as jobs, housing and other issues of real concern.

The European Commission has suggested EU member states should sign a broad political declaration on values and ambitions next year.

It says this could serve as the basis for a future shake-up of EU institutions, of the kind proposed in the ill-fated European constitution.

The EU has struggled to chart a way forward since the French and Dutch rejected the constitution in referendums last year.

Stalled union

In what was Ms Merkel's first big European policy speech, she said the situation needed to be resolved.

"If it's not tackled before, you can be sure that the German presidency will focus on this. Because it is so difficult and the stances are so different. However, I am against moving too quickly and putting us back in a situation where we can't move forward," Ms Merkel said.

"We need to think about how we make the constitution a success. I want the constitution, the German government wants the constitution."

The EU is divided between countries which regard the existing text of the constitutional treaty as the best possible compromise and others, which would prefer to declare it dead.

On Tuesday, Estonia became the 15th member state to complete the parliamentary stage of ratifying the treaty, and Finland is making plans to follow suit in the coming weeks.




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