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EU constitution unveiled

By GARETH HARDING, UPI Chief European Correspondent   |   May 26, 2003 at 11:07 AM   |   Comments

BRUSSELS, May 26 (UPI) -- The proposed EU constitution, unveiled Monday and to be considered by EU leaders next month, calls for an elected president and the post of foreign minister to represent the union internationally, and a binding bill of rights.

The document, drawn up by a 105-member committee led by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, calls for the European Union's six-month rotating presidency to be replaced by an EU president, elected from the current batch of heads of state for two and a half years. He also favors creating the post of EU foreign minister to represent the bloc on the world stage

Perhaps as important, at least to the British, was that the document does not use the term "federal" and the European Union will not be renamed "United Europe" of the "United States of Europe."

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who represents Britain on the 105-member convention, said the draft text showed London had made "good progress" in influencing the proposals.

"We are burying once and for all the fantasies of a Brussels super-state. Europe will remain a union of sovereign nation states with governments such as Britain's in charge," he said.

However, the opposition Conservative Party -- which wants a referendum on any future EU constitution -- said the draft constitution was still "unacceptable" and would "sign away crucial areas of national competence" to Brussels.

Giscard d'Estaing's blueprint, which will be debated by convention members Friday and Saturday, aims to define 'who does what?' in a Union that is set to almost double in size over the next four years.

The proposed constitution calls for the EU's 6-month rotating presidency to be replaced by an EU president, elected from the current batch of heads of state for a 2-1/2-year term. It also favors creating the post of EU foreign minister to represent the bloc on the world stage.

Giscard d'Estaing's power-sharing proposals have gone down well with larger member states, such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain, but are fiercely opposed by smaller states, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

More popular among delegates to the Brussels-based body, which has been compared to the Constitutional Convention, which gave birth to the United States, are proposals aimed at boosting the bloc's foreign policy powers.

In a nod to the recent splits over Iraq, the draft text unveiled Monday calls on members to "actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity."

It also commits the 15 members to come to each other's defense in the event of terrorist attack.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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