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Europe

Conservative EU Leaders Split Over Constitution

Conservative leaders from around Europe, representing the European People's Party, have been unable to bridge their differences on the EU constitution.

The meeting between Europe’s conservative leaders to discuss progress on the draft constitution treaty, fell apart at the familiar stumbling blocks: the proposed new voting system, the number of commissioners and defense policy issues. Speaking to journalists afterwards, Italian Prime Minister and current head of the EU, Silvio Berlusconi, characterized the most contentious issue on the table -- the voting system -- as a question of "prestige." He said Germany, which is strongly in favor of the voting system, and Spain, which opposes it, represented "the outer limits of the debate." French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who initiated the Dec. 4 meeting, kept his language deliberately vague. "There can be some changes to the convention’s text but we hope they will be limited and based on consensus. Important advances have been made but there remains work to be done," he said. The one concrete issue that all the members in the European People’s Party agreed was that a reference to Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage be included in the future Constitution. In just a few days time, all of the European leaders will need to agree on much more if a final draft of the Constitution is to go into effect before the end of the year. (EUobserver.com)