A Quick Guide to the EU Summit | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.06.2005
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A Quick Guide to the EU Summit

Fears are growing that the European Union summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels will not resolve the bloc's most pressing problems. DW-WORLD explains the two issues the heads of government and state will tackle.

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What's at stake for Europe's future?

The Budget

The summit will aim to agree on the EU's budgetary framework for 2007-2012. The so-called net contributors -- including Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden -- which put more into the EU coffers than they get back, want to cut their payments and limit spending to no more than one percent of the bloc's gross national income.

In the run-up to the summit, Britain has come under fire from EU leaders headed by French President Jacques Chirac for refusing to freeze the rebate it negotiated in 1984, when it was the bloc's poorest member. Currently, the rebate totals an average of 4.6 billion euros ($5.55 billion) annually, and almost 10 percent of it is now paid by the poorer EU members from eastern Europe who joined last year. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been adamant that his country will not give way on the rebate unless agriculture subsidies, from which Britain hardly profits, are subjected to drastic cuts. France's Chirac has categorically ruled out any reduction in the subsidies, which his country's farmers rely on.

The European Constitution

The EU leaders will also debate what to do about the bloc constitution in the wake of French and Dutch rejection of the document in May 29 and June 1 referendums. The constitution was meant to help combat the unwieldy decision-making process in the enlarged bloc of 25 countries and 455 million people. It cannot be ratified without approval from all EU states.

The summit participants may decide the treaty can't be ratified at all or call member states to go ahead with votes to see what the final results bring. Several EU leaders have called for the ratification process to be extended beyond the two-year period originally foreseen; it was initially expected to be implemented in November 2006. The leaders could also indefinitely delay ratification. It's unlikely they will decide to renegotiate the treaty, as its drafting was a long and difficult process the first time round.

Observers warn that the summit might not result in any progress at all.

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