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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
EU set for Austrian abbey summit
Roman Catholic abbey in Klosterneuburg, Austria
The meeting will take place at the abbey in Klosterneuburg
EU foreign ministers are meeting in a 900-year-old Austrian abbey this weekend to debate ways of making Europe function better.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the EU presidency, hopes the question of the constitution can be put to one side.

She hopes the meeting can focus on steps that can be taken independently.

The European constitution was put on hold after France and the Netherlands rejected it in referendums last year.

Mrs Plassnik says she hopes the focus of the meeting on Saturday will be "better crisis management, more consular co-operation, better lawmaking and more transparency... in the union's decision-making process".

The plan is to come up with specific proposals on how the EU could function better
Ursula Plassnik

The programme of the meeting appears to chime with the European Commission's proposal to produce a "Europe of results" and postpone further debate on the EU's institutional structures.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said he wants to gain citizens' trust, by showing that the EU can make a difference on issues such as security and the environment, before asking citizens to vote on another EU treaty.

The Austrian presidency will be presenting EU leaders with a proposed "road map" for future steps on the constitution at a summit in Brussels next month.

It is widely expected to propose continuing the "period of reflection" launched in June 2005 for another year.

Low level

Some of the ideas already put forward for helping the EU deliver results come directly from the draft constitution, leading to accusations of "cherry-picking" both from supporters and opponents of the treaty.

Supporters fear that adopting parts of the constitution separately could undermine the case for adopting the entire treaty.

Opponents argue that it is undemocratic to adopt "by stealth" legislation that has been rejected in a popular referendum, such as the French and Dutch "No" votes a year ago.

The UK EU presidency in the second half of 2005 failed to open EU Council meetings - gatherings of national government ministers - to the public, as proposed in the constitution.

This idea, for greater transparency, is now being pursued by the Austrian presidency.

Another proposal on Mrs Plassnik's list of ideas was subsidiarity control - measures to ensure that decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level, such as national or regional government, rather than at EU level.

Mr Barroso has also proposed that all new proposed EU legislation should be sent immediately to national parliaments, so that they can raise any objections at the earliest possible moment.


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