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European Constitution: the battleground of Europe's clashing interests

20/06/2007 MOSCOW.
(RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir
Simonov) -

The French and Dutch rejections of the draft European constitution in referendums two years ago appeared to have buried the document. Now, it is being revived.

A two-day summit is set to open in Brussels on Thursday at which Germany, as
current European Union president, intends to hold debates and try to get the
Constitution out of its deadlock. There are possibilities that a new draft
will be completed by 2009, which would be a satisfactory compromise for all

Hopes that the summit will succeed are slim. The conflict is not so much
over whether the scope of the new draft should be wider or narrower.
Underlying the debates on the new instrument of European unity is a clash
between the older and the more recent EU member countries. The former
believe in the benefits of an independent EU foreign policy, while the
latter seek to dominate the EU to further their own interests and those of
the United States.

Because a mere 16 out of the total 27 EU members have ratified it in full,
the draft constitution is frozen. More countries that have pledged to hold
referendums - Britain, for one - are certain to turn the constitution down
and send the EU into an even worse crisis than what it went through in 2005.

All these concerns have given rise to the idea of a limited version
replacing a full-fledged constitution. New EU members, led by Poland, are
enthusiastic about that. The new document is not supposed to be termed a
"constitution" and will omit clauses on a European flag, anthem and motto.

What survives of the initial draft are the concepts of a permanent president
to replace the six-month rotating one, and an EU foreign minister. The
European Commission is supposed to cut back its membership, so that not
every country will have a commissioner.

The mini-unity-pact is unlikely to build up the European Union's
international influence. It will not make united Europe a legal entity able
to join international organizations as one.

New EU members - former Soviet satellites - are anxious to push the pact
through. A constitution crafted according to Jacques Chirac's dream is the
last thing they want.

As the former French president sees it, united Europe needs a fundamental
law to grow stronger and so withstand American influence. The best Old World
brains, who invented the Constitution in the first place, aim to bring
forces into a steady global balance and put an end to the present excessive
role of a hyperpower.

Poland and its allies, on the contrary, are offering themselves to the
United States as a bridgehead across the Atlantic. EU founders are baffled
that Romania and Bulgaria never cared to ask the advice of Brussels on
hosting U.S. military bases, while American ABM components are set to be
deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic - a doubtful benefit, which has
more cons than pros for European security.

The new constitutional draft is expected to omit the Charter of Fundamental
Rights, which EU members signed in 2000, largely at the request of the new
members. The Brussels summit unluckily coincides with more revelations of
secret CIA jails found by independent investigators in Poland and Romania.
Naturally, countries violating basic human rights find it awkward to
publicly support those rights.

Warsaw blocked a new long-term Russia-EU partnership agreement a few weeks
ago owing to Moscow's meat import embargo. Tellingly, Germany turned down a
huge batch of Polish meat very soon afterward. Now, Poland is demanding a
disproportionate number of seats on the Council of Europe, the European
Commission and other institutions. Its bloated ambitions are the worst
danger for the unity agreement that the Brussels summit has been called to

Proportionate representation pegs the number of a country's seats to its
population - an option Poland will not agree to. Its interests are moving
ever closer to America's, so it wants greater influence to be able to make
more effective use of the EU.

The Brussels meeting would be far more fruitful if it discussed not a
substitute constitution but new EU members' ideas for its future. Do they
want an independent and self-reliant geopolitical entity, open to
international contacts, or a receptacle for another country's jails, radars
and missiles?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not
necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.