Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, the anthem of the European Union, rounded off a weekend of celebrations in Berlin marking half a century of European Unity. But as the fireworks flew overhead, the leaders on the ground knew there were likely to be just as many political explosions in the coming months as they try to redraft a European Constitution.
German Chancellor Angela Merkl wants a draft treaty to replace the one thrown out by French and Dutch voters by the end of this year so it can be ratified before the european elections in 2009. Without it she said they will not even have a basis to work on.
With such a time limit hanging over their heads the European leaders now need to work fast. But sceptic Polish President Lech Kaczynski thinks Merkl’s ambitions are unachievable unless, as he puts it “the intention is only to move a few commas around”:
“The present idea would allow the EU to take over much of the running of national states, and that is not right in my opinion,” he said. “It is obvious that the strongest national states have a strong national authority. Poland understands that, in certain issues, it is good to be a stubborn partner.”
For now the signing of the Declaration of Berlin, at least paving the way for the tricky talks to come, is a milestone in itself.
Until a week or so ago, Poland had even refused to sign that. But it is just the beginning.