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Nice: long nights and tough talking
European heads of government meet in the southern French city of Nice for long nights of negotiations to thrash out the nitty-gritty of EU institutional reforms.

The toughest talk is over the number of votes each country will get once the union expands and acrimony breaks out between the big and small countries. Talks almost break down a number of times.

The summit agrees to limit the size of the commission and increase the president's powers. Vetoes make way for qualified majority voting in a number of new areas but members keep their vetoes on social security and tax.

"Enhanced co-operation" is given the go-ahead, allowing fast-track countries to press ahead with new policies without waiting for other members.

Candidate countries, who also attend the conference, say it is a big step towards enlargement but Commission President Romano Prodi is disappointed.

Many issues are dealt with in a makeshift way and are left for more rigorous negotiations at the next conference in 2004.

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