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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
EU summit sticking points
All countries attending the EU summit in Brussels will have to make compromises if a deal on a treaty to replace the failed constitution is to be reached.

Most countries broadly support the original text of the constitution and have similar positions on the main issues. They may still have to give some ground, however.

Five countries that want substantial changes to the treaty they signed in 2004 are more exposed and will have to fight their own corners.

Here is a summary of their objections.

POLAND

Poland is fighting a lone battle to scrap rules laid down in the constitution determining how countries vote on EU legislation. The constitution says a vote passes if it has the support of 55% of member states (ie 15 out of 27) - and if these countries represent 65% of the EU's population. This links a country's voting strength to the size of its population.

But the existing voting system, agreed after much haggling at a summit in Nice in 2000, is far more advantageous for Poland. Under the Nice Treaty, Poland got 27 votes out of a total of 345 - only two fewer than Germany, which has double the population. But Poland says it voted to join the EU on the basis of Nice, and it is unfair to move the goalposts.

As a compromise, it suggests a country's voting weight should be tied not to its population, but to the square root of its population. This would sharply narrow the gap in voting power between large, middle-sized, and small member states.

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK is the only member state making a big effort to block further transfers of power to the EU.

The UK says the new treaty must not:

  • Be a constitution, be called a constitution, or have too many of the usual trappings of a constitution. It should not contain references to the EU flag or anthem. It should not attempt to consolidate all earlier treaties, simply amend them, in the same way as the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties amended the Treaty of Rome.
  • Make the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding, or at least, not in the UK. This is based on fears, particularly strong in the business community, that the European Courts could use the charter to force changes to labour laws. The government also thinks including the text of the Charter in the new treaty would make it look too constitution-like.
  • Undermine the independence of Britain's foreign policy. The UK does not want the proposed foreign affairs supremo to be called a "foreign minister". It also wants to keep EU foreign policy on a different legal footing from other policy areas. This is to guarantee that decisions can only be taken when member states are unanimously agreed, and to ensure that the European Parliament and European Court of Justice have no influence.
  • Tie British hands in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. Either the national veto must be maintained, or the UK must have the ability to opt out of EU policies. The British government believes European legislation - for example, on the procedural rights of suspects or the presumption of innocence - could undermine Britain's common law system.
  • Tie British hands regarding the cost of social security.
  • State that EU law has supremacy over national law.

THE NETHERLANDS

The Netherlands' position partially overlaps with the UK's, though the Netherlands is less worried about giving up national vetoes.

The Dutch, along with the French, voted against the constitution in referendums in 2005, and the current Dutch government is "absolutely opposed" to reviving anything called a "constitution". Like the UK, it says the new treaty should be simply an "amending" treaty.

The Netherlands is against including in the treaty:

  • The text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights - though unlike the UK it has no objection to the charter being made legally binding by other means.
  • References to symbols such as the European flag and anthem.
  • A reference to the primacy of EU law.

It is in favour of:

  • Stating the criteria for further enlargement of the EU.
  • A "red card" to oblige the European Commission to withdraw a proposed law, if a majority of national parliaments object to it.
  • A guarantee that the EU will not force it to liberalise its public services.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech government supports Polish objections to the new voting system, but principally because it does not want Poland to be isolated.

It supports the Dutch proposal for more powers for national parliaments, and favours the creation of a mechanism for powers to be returned to national governments.

Like the UK, it is against the proposed EU foreign affairs supremo being given the title "foreign minister".

FRANCE

France wants a simple treaty, rather than a constitution, but is not against a general move to replace national vetoes with majority voting.






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