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Germany

Schröder: Constitution Will Help EU Integration

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told parliament on Friday that the recently approved constitution for the EU was a "historic step" that would secure the bloc's future and enable greater European integration.

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Chancellor Schröder said the draft was an acceptable compromise

Schröder's speech to the Bundestag was the official government statement on the constitutional compromise hammered out by European Union leaders two weeks ago in Brussels.

"The European constitution is an acceptable and necessary basis for that will allow Europe to continue to grow closer together," Schröder told parliament. "We have taken a step of historic proportions along the path toward greater European integration."

Barring ratification by all EU countries, the document will serve as the blueprint for the future of the newly enlarged Union. Schröder said the draft was worthy of approval by the Bundestag, even if it did not go as far as the government had hoped in some areas.

"Of course the text is a compromise," he said. "In the question of majority-decisions and strengthened cooperation we would have gladly done more. But it was not politically feasible."

A deeper EU

Whereas other leaders from more euro-skeptical countries have tried to paint the constitution merely as a "tidying up" of past treaties, Schröder made clear he saw the document as key to deepening the EU.

Last month, the group of 25 EU member state leaders reached a consensus on the stickiest issues that had held up the constitution, including voting rights and the size of the European Commission. Under the new proposal, at least 15 member states representing 65 percent of the EU's population will have to support decision for them to take effect. From 2009 onwards, not every member country will be able to send a commissioner to Brussels as the Commission shrinks from an unwieldy 25 to 15.

Schröder explicitly thanked the current governments of Spain and Poland for backing away from the hardline positions of their predecessors, which were largely blamed for sinking earlier attempts at approving the constitution. Both countries had opposed the new voting rights system since it diminishes their influence.

Angela Merkel, the leader of the conservative opposition, backed Schröder in his support for the constitution. But she criticized the lacking mention of God in the document's preamble. "We have to learn to stand by our own roots," she said.

Backing Verheugen and Barroso

Merkel also reiterated her irritation that the government had decided to back Günter Verheugen, currently EU expansion commissioner, for another term in Brussels. The conservatives feel the government had picked Verheugen before thoroughly consulting the opposition.

Verheugen is in the running for a new "super commissioner" post that would responsible for EU economic and industrial policy. Schröder said he strongly backed Verheugen, but the assignment of portfolios would be alone the responsibility of the designated Commission president Jose Manuel Durao Barroso.

Barroso, the current Portuguese prime minister, was backed to head the Commission this autumn when Roman Prodi's term expires. Schröder said Germany supported Barroso for the job "without reservation".

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  • Date 02.07.2004
  • Author DW staff (mry)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/5G7T
  • Date 02.07.2004
  • Author DW staff (mry)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/5G7T