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Europe

Ireland Presents its Six-month EU Plan

Ireland has laid out its plans for what is set to be a difficult and busy EU Presidency in the first half of next year.

With Dublin having to take on the aftermath of the failed Constitution talks, the battered euro rules and impending enlargement amid talks of the Union breaking into fragments, Foreign Minister Brian Cowen spoke of a "very full presidency." Referring to the intergovernmental negotiations on the Constitution, Cowen said, "Ireland will place the highest responsibility on its IGC responsibilities." That job has been made more difficult by the fact that in the last stages of bilateral negotiations at the Dec. 12 summit, it was not clear exactly what compromises were agreed by each member state. For the moment, the Irish Presidency will consult other member states and make a report which will be presented to EU leaders at a summit in March. Cowen would not speculate on whether the Constitution talks could be finished within his Presidency saying only that Ireland "was not part of the disagreement that took place." In addition to the Constitution, the Irish have many other issues on their plate. They will have to contend with talk about some member states going it alone at a faster pace than the rest. The bad feeling between member states was exacerbated recently by a letter sent by six net contributors to the EU budget -- France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK -- demanding that it be curbed from 2007. Other important issues it will have to deal with include overseeing a smooth enlargement on May 1, taking forward membership negotiations for Bulgaria and Romania and reviving the EU's flagging Lisbon Agenda which aims to revitalize Europe's economy by 2010. (EUobserver.com)

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