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Europe

European Press Review: Drafting a Constitution

The European press on Friday homed in on the EU summit in Brussels and the contentious issue of drawing up a constitution capable of satisfying the interests of 25 different nations.

The British newspaper The Guardian said the document is neither well-written nor easy to follow. Its overwhelming bureaucratic detail and sometimes turgid prose might well address every aspect of European cooperation, but the paper wrote that if it really were to become Europe’s constitution, it would be one of the most disheartening documents of its kind ever drafted.

London's Independent newspaper asked what the European constitution is actually meant to be. The answer, wrote the paper, should be an intention to produce a document that belongs to the people of Europe, a document set out in plain language which explains the role and powers of the Union. But the paper said the document, which has Europe’s leaders haggling this weekend, actually represents the worst of the Union's traditions, with obscure, bureaucratic and uninspiring language. The London paper claimed that what Europe needs is leadership, not a bungled constitution written in language as dead as ancient Greek. It should be no great cause of mourning if the negotiations failed and Europe’s leaders were forced to scrap the draft and start again, the paper concluded.

The Financial Times admonished leaders to keep talking if necessary rather than rush to sign a rotten deal. Although Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is keen for the summit to be a success, the paper wrote that there is no real deadline, and that it would make more sense to prolong negotiations for a few weeks into 2004. If the summit reaches an impassé, leaders should opt to extend talks in the name of creating a constitutional treaty worthy of its name.

In the Netherlands, De Volksrant also took the view that it would be best to have no constitution than a bad one, stating that a bad constitution would lead to more conflicts within the Union. The paper added that smaller member nations are no longer as willing as they once were to look to larger nations such as Germany and France as Union leaders. This, the paper continued, is an indication that member states are looking out for their own self interests as opposed to the collective interest of the Union.

Austria’s Kurier said the summit was a no win situation. A diluted compromise would create more problems than it would solve, whilst postponing agreement would serve only to underline the inability of the would-be superpower to strike a deal. The paper said that the struggle between nationalistic Poland and Spain and Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy will kill the proposed constitution. The Kurier said it would need a miracle for the summit to succeed, and asked who still believes in miracles anyway.

The Danish paper Politiken was expecting the summit to score a result, but said the compromise would undoubtedly be highly complex. The paper wrote that when 25 independent nations decide to become constitutionally bound to one another, it is time to talk in terms of a global and historic event. There is no bigger political question in our time, and there is no certainty that all Europeans want to be a part of it, the paper said.

Italy's Corriere Della Sera said it is up to Poland and Spain to find a compromise to suit Germany and France. The paper added that unless such a compromise could be found, it would take a miracle to prevent the summit ending in failure.