» Friday, March 19, 2004

European Constitution

Asked if the Prime Minister was hopeful of a breakthrough in the negotiations on the European constitution in the light of Poland’s decision to back down on its objections yesterday, the PMOS said that the Government had always approached this matter in a constructive way. We had always maintained that for an EU to function at twenty-five, changes would need to be made. We had also said that it would be helpful to delineate the competencies of Governments and the competencies of the European Council and European Commission. The stumbling block at the European Council last December had related to the issue of vote-weighting and had involved Spain and Poland. There had now been a change of Government in Spain. We would have to wait and see how that might affect the dynamic of this particular discussion. He said that had also seen what the Polish Government had said. It now fell to the Irish Presidency to examine how this particular issue could be resolved. If progress could be made, then obviously people would want that to happen – the sooner the better. No one was under the impression that the European Council next week would see the resolution of these issues. However, we would have to wait and see how things panned out in terms of whether the Irish considered it worthwhile to push for a deal under their Presidency. Everyone was aware of the British Government’s red lines. Equally, it was important to recognise that the issue which had been the stumbling block last December was not one where we had been central to the debate.

In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that it was important to be clear about the history of this issue. As the discussions at the European Council in December had shown, the centre of gravity regarding our red lines was with us. However, as the Prime Minister had said in his press conference after the talks had broken down, all these issues would have to be revisited in any event because the IGC stood as a whole. Unless there was unanimity, there was no agreement. Subsequent to the European Council, the Irish Presidency had been having preliminary discussions with different countries to find out where things stood. In that vein, the Prime Minister had met with the Taoiseach in Dublin last week. There had never been any anticipation that things would be resolved by next week. Whether the Presidency considered that there had been movement in any direction, and whether things were looking more optimistic for the summer, we would have to wait and see.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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