Leaders Set to Squabble at EU Summit: by Constant Brand

Ian Manners

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The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 7, 2007; 11:46 PM

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union leaders already bicker about the future. At a summit meeting opening Thursday, even the past is bound to cause discord.

What was supposed to be a unifying, warm declaration listing the major accomplishments to mark the EU's 50th anniversary later this month could turn into a spat exposing tender wounds.

Mention the troubled draft of the constitution? No way, Britain says. Religious values? More trouble ahead. And the list goes on.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds the EU presidency, wants to keep the proclamation down to a simple, easy-to-understand text _ a task diplomats have been working on since January.

On Tuesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged leaders to make sure that the euro currency and the post-Cold War reunification of Europe are marked as "great achievements."

Poland, meanwhile, has demanded a reference to eastern Europe's plight under communism after World War II, while Britain is keen to avoid mention of the 27-nation bloc's embattled constitution treaty, which it opposes.

Others want mention of Europe's Christian values _ a move that might seem out of step with Europe's multiethnic makeup _ as well as goals to boost Europe's cherished social protections and to list current global challenges such as climate change and terrorism.

"If there is a single or very narrow set of authors then it might be possible to come up with a far clearer document, but when you have 27 hands scribbling away, or like 27 different chefs ... guess what you wind up with _ Europe's worst goulash," said Ian Manners of the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen.

Analysts fear negotiations on drafting the text, which must be unveiled in just over two weeks, will get bogged down in a nasty battle over Europe's future direction, leaving a muddle of a final declaration that will be too complex to understand, lacking any inspiration to set new goals for Europe.

The Brussels European Policy Center said the declaration was a chance for leaders to revive support among citizens for the EU, which remains low in many member states.

"A powerful text which sums up what the EU is for and why it matters in today's world could stir hearts and minds," the think tank said.
TidsskriftThe Washington Post
StatusUdgivet - 7 mar. 2007
Udgivet eksterntJa

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