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Pushing for a European Constitution

French and German leaders are meeting in Nantes today for a one-day summit on the future of the European Union. They are expected to push forward proposals for a European Constitution.


Reading between the lines at the French-German summit

French leader Jacque Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder are meeting in the Loire Valley city of Nantes on Friday.

Apart from discussing measures to fight terrorism, the two countries will be working on a unified position on the enlargement of the European Union.

The one-day French-German summit is expected to yield a declaration that will insist that the EU enlargement proceed as scheduled. Up on the agenda is also a European constitution.

Both leaders have praised the idea of a European constitution in the recent past. A joint declaration could give the proposal momentum.

The French President and the German Chancellor are meeting at a time when the European Union appears to still be divided over the extent of further European integration.

Opposing ambitions

The summit is an attempt to hammer out a unified position on the future of the European Union– in opposition to the current varying ambitions of both leaders.

The two countries fell out at a stormy summit in Nice last year over the future of the European Union including matters such as decision-making.

France has disclosed its wish for stronger member states and a federation of national states, rejecting Schröder's vision of a federal Europe with its own government based on the European Commission.

Dinner diplomacy

Both states have sought to improve the relationship with informal meetings every six weeks. The Nantes talks come less than a month ahead of a crucial summit in Laeken, Belgium in December, in which member states will discuss the entry of further eastern European candidates.

The Laeken summit will review the candidates' progress in reforms for entry and will launch a general debate on these countries' future in the European Union.

Candidates fear that the September 11 attacks in New York might have an effect on the proposed schedule for entry to the European Union. Up to 10 eastern European states are supposed to become EU member states in time for the European Parliament elections in 2004.

The two leaders are expected to include the war against terrorism in the planned declaration, confirming proposals made after the New York attacks to introduce an EU-wide search - and arrest warrant as well as emphasizing their joint backing of the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan.