A meeting of EU leaders at the end of this week looks like being beset by arguments over the stability pact.
The Netherlands and Germany are on a collision course, according to media reports, following a meeting of EU foreign ministers yesterday on the Constitution. The fight is about how much power the European Commission should have over the co-ordination of economic policy in the member states. While Germany - along with Poland, Italy and Greece - want the power of the Brussels executive to reprimand member states on their budget deficits to be curbed, the Netherlands is fighting equally hard to see the Commission get more powers. The Dutch fight comes after its fury last year when Germany and France manoeuvred themselves out of getting a fine from Brussels after which the stability pact - which underpins the euro - was effectively suspended. Speaking after the meeting in Luxembourg, Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot said his country would fight "to the bitter end" for stronger powers for the Commission. He said he was "angry" that Germany had been among the four member states sending a letter to the Irish EU Presidency for a watering down of the declaration on the stability pact - which had been proposed by Dublin on the basis of a German-Dutch compromise. Despite this quarrel, the Irish Presidency put a brave face on the matter. Irish foreign minister Brian Cowen said that meeting had been "very productive". He added, "We are therefore well-positioned to have a short, focused agenda when the Heads of State or Government meet on Thursday". However, despite Mr Cowen's optimism, some other big issues also remain open such as the legal status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, whether or not there should be a reference to Christianity and all of the sensitive institutional questions. On the last issue, Dublin is set to produce a paper ahead of the summit. (EUobserver.com)