Attempts to create a consensus on a reform treaty for Europe appear to be heading for failure in Brussels, after bilateral talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish President Lech Kaczyinski ended without result. Chancellor Merkel, the holder of the rotating EU Presidency, had appeared determined to get a breakthrough from her morning meeting. “We’re working hard,” she said, “The problems are not yet solved but everyone is trying.”
But Poland is in no hurry to see the introduction of a system which would reduce its voting rights, and after the talks a Polish diplomat said they would be happy to see the issue put back by six months.
Britain is holding a firm line on its conditions, which include dropping plans for an EU foreign minister and an opt out on a charter of employment rights. And given his electors voted ‘no’ to the initial plan for a constitution, Dutch Prime Minister Peter Balkenende too has his wishlist: “There’ll be a long day. And it’s not easy, we know that. Also, we, the Dutch government, we have to make several points: the role of national parliaments, the public services and the criteria for enlargement,” he said.
France, meanwhile, has angered business interest groups by calling for the words “free and undistorted” competition to be removed from any treaty as a concession to its more interventionist political tradition. Resolving all these issues in a day would be an achievement indeed.