» Monday, June 14, 2004


Asked again if the European election results had changed the Prime Minister’s position on any aspects of this week’s European Council meeting in Brussels, the PMOS said no. He referred journalists to Paragraph 66 of the IGC White Paper which stated, “We will insist that unanimity remain for Treaty Change and in other areas of vital national interest such as tax, social security, defence, key areas of criminal procedural law and the system of own resources. Unanimity must remain the general rule for common foreign and security policy, as proposed in the final Convention text”. That position had not changed.

Asked again how likely it was that an agreement on the Treaty would be reached at the European Council this week, the PMOS said that the Irish Presidency was trying very hard for a deal. It went without saying that we supported their efforts. It was clear that progress had been made in relation to issues of particular concern to the UK. However, there were matters that had yet to be clarified, particularly in relation to the Charter. It was also important to remember that the stumbling block at the European Council last December was the issue of vote weighting, something in which we weren’t particularly involved. We had yet to see whether that was something that could be resolved. In answer to questions about the Charter, the PMOS said that the Charter codified existing rights, rather than create new rights. However, we had to be sure that it would not conflict with our national laws on issues such as strikes. We were seeking clarification on it. Asked again about the chances of reaching agreement this week, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a hypothetical discussion about percentages. We believed a deal was still possible if we were able to obtain the clarification that we required on the Charter and other issues. However, it was important to recognise that there were other issues at stake over which we had little control, such as vote weighting. Put to him that the Taoiseach had rated success at 50:50, the PMOS said that the Irish Government were the current holders of the EU Presidency. They were therefore the ones in the driving seat. They still believed a deal was possible, but they also recognised that there were still issues to be resolved. Asked if he was leaving the door open for failure, the PMOS said that he was leaving open the door for both success and failure. Asked if he would agree that failure was likely to be a result of issues beyond the UK’s control, the PMOS said it was impossible to tell precisely because they were beyond our control. It would depend on whether member states were willing to shift their positions in a way in which other countries would consider to be satisfactory.

Asked if our nomination for the new European Commission President formed part of the UK’s negotiating position, the PMOS said no. It was a separate issue which would be resolved as such. Asked when the British Government would announce who would be its Commissioner, the PMOS said that as he understood it, it didn’t have to be right now. Asked if the Prime Minister supported the candidature of Antonio Vittorino for Commission President, the PMOS said that our thoughts recently had not focussed on one particular candidate. Mr Vittorino’s name had been around before, as had other people’s. Discussions about this issue were continuing.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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