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European Press Review: The EU Constitution Could Still Falter

European newspaper on Monday commentators weighed in on the European Union’s new constitution that was agreed upon Friday by the leaders of the 25-nation bloc.

The Austrian daily Der Standard mixed optimism with a tinge of remorse following the agreement that came after many months of haggling. The constitution gives the newly expanded EU a foundation of democracy and a roof of guaranteed rights, it said. But the most important step is the future decision-making process. It will make the EU more maneuverable, although not as much as its supporters would have liked. The national tugging and pulling prevented the biggest possible agreement, the paper wrote, so they settled instead for the lowest common denominator.

The Dutch daily De Volkskrant was equally cautious and warned that although Europe’s leaders reached a consensus, the disputes are not yet over. It has always been Europe’s Achilles’ heel that its leaders have pushed the European project forward, while its citizens have been left behind. The big question, the paper asked, is what will happen if the constitution is rejected by one or more countries? And it supplied the answer: renegotiate.

Denmark’s Politiken newspaper expressed similar sentiments, commenting that the fight has only just begun, but it also sees other, more rancorous, options. The paper thinks a “no” vote in a national parliament or referendum rejecting the constitution will trigger a new crisis that could last years. One result could be that the resistors will be plucked from the pack and the boundaries of Europe redrawn. Another possibility, it said, is the complete collapse of the constitution project with all the attendant bad blood and bitterness.

The French daily Le Figaro was already worried about the warning signs. The inability of the 25 EU members to select the next European Commission president says everything about the blockades that hinder action. At a crucial moment for our continent, no one could agree on who should run the EU’s executive body. That, the paper noted, is a sobering realization.

The Guardian from London commented on the anti-EU mood in Britain. A flurry of weekend opinion polls reveals a nation strongly opposed to the European Union constitution, the daily wrote, but it also shows that Britons are deeply ignorant about it. Prime Minister Tony Blair is right to make the case in an unapologetic tone, the paper said, and he needs to continue to do so and to be supported by others of all parties. Blair must not be left alone to persuade a doubtful nation, the paper urged. It saw Britain at a crossroads and said this was “truly a defining national moment.”

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