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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 13:11 GMT
Finland ratifies EU constitution
Copy of European Constitution
EU leaders disagree on whether the constitution is dead or alive
Finland has become the latest country to ratify the European constitution, four weeks before the end of its six-month stint as EU president.

Finland hands over the presidency to Germany, which has pledged to seek a solution to the constitution problem.

Sixteen of the 25 EU states have now largely completed ratification.

But French and Dutch voters rejected the treaty in referendums in 2005, and UK Home Secretary John Reid described it on Monday as a "dead parrot".

Finland's parliament voted by 125 to 39 in favour of ratification, with four abstentions.

The government has now to take a decision proposing ratification to the Finnish president.

2009 deadline

Ratified: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
Nearly ratified: Finland, Germany
Ratification on hold: Czech Rep, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, UK
Rejected: France, Netherlands

The aim is to finish the procedure by Thursday 14 December, when EU leaders gather in Brussels for an end-of-year summit.

The Finnish presidency held discussions with EU states during the autumn, and will present an assessment of the state of play to the summit.

EU leaders are still hoping for agreement on measures to streamline EU institutions by 2009, when a new European Commission will be appointed and elections will be held to the European Parliament.

The European Commission also wants the new "institutional settlement" to be in place before Croatia joins the EU, possibly by the end of the decade.

If Germany comes up with a blueprint for a way forward, the hope is that treaty changes can be ratified - with or without referendums - in 2008.

Most countries that have ratified the constitution are still hoping it can be resuscitated in something like its original form.

Others, such as the UK, the Netherlands and Poland would prefer it not to reappear in any form.

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