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Europe

Tight Timetable Expected for Constitution Talks

Member states will on Monday discuss how to formally proceed with negotiations on the draft European constitution following last month's timetable commitment by European Union leaders.

Member states will on Monday discuss how to formally proceed with negotiations on the draft European constitution following last month's timetable commitment by European Union leaders. Foreign ministers are set to agree to a tight calendar set out by the Irish EU Presidency to ensure that the June deadline for finishing the treaty blueprint can be kept. Brian Cowen, Ireland's foreign minister, will suggest that EU foreign ministers gather to discuss the text on May 17. It will be the first meeting at this level since constitution talks collapsed in bitter acrimony at the end of last year over voting rights. A diplomat told the EUobserver that the idea is to "clear the decks" of most of the issues leaving the "big" and, so far, intractable ones, for EU leaders at their final constitution summit one month later. These big issues continue to be those to do with the European institutions and involve the real balance of power in the EU: how voting will be carried out in the council of ministers, the number of commissioners and the number of seats in the European Parliament. But there are also a whole host of other issues including the extent to which the veto will remain in the Constitution, what budgetary powers will be given to the parliament and whether to include a reference to Christianity. ( EUobserver.com)

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