Since mid-December when the EU member states failed to agree on voting procedures outlined in the draft EU Constitution, debate has continued to simmer in Europe’s capitals over the question of a new deadline.
Until the Constitution is adopted by the member states, the EU will continue to work on the basis of the Nice Treaty. Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, whose country is in favor of keeping the weighted voting methods set in the Nice Treaty and blocked introducing reforms as desired by Germany and France, has indicated his country is open to fresh negotiations. "I hope and believe that an agreement is possible before the end of 2004," Aznar told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday. He added that Spain is flexible but "if we're told to take it or leave it, then a deal will become difficult". German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder indicated during over the weekend that he would put pressure on Ireland to announce a deadline for an agreement during Irish EU Presidency, starting on Jan. 1, 2004. "I expect that the EU constitution will be unanimously agreed in the next year," said Schröder in an interview, though "not in the first quarter". In the mean time, the architect of Europe's draft constitution, French statesman Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, has urged member states to take their time in trying to restart the stalled talks. "A good time would be the end of 2004 or the beginning of 2005," he said. "A hasty movement will only reinforce the antagonism." (EUobserver.com)