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Herculean Labor?

DW staff / AFP (jam)March 18, 2007

Although Angela Merkel can boast of success after her Poland trip, Germany faces "an uphill task" for consensus on a revised draft of the EU constitution by the end of its EU presidency, Britain's Foreign Secretary said.

Persuading the French that their EU consitution concerns are being met will be hard, Britain's foreign secretary said

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Friday to have a roadmap to push forward a reworked constitution by June, warning member countries that failure to adopt it by 2009 would be a missed opportunity of historic proportions.

The constitution project was put on hold nearly two years ago after French and Dutch voters rejected the draft text.

In an interview recorded for BBC television to air Sunday, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said she was skeptical about the chances for the German draft constitution, even though it was slimmer than the complex document initially rejected.

"I have to admit that I think that this is an uphill task, certainly to do it during the German presidency," Beckett said in remarks released before the Politics Show on BBC 1.

Beckett added that the picture would not be clear until after the French presidential elections, "and that comes quite close to the end of their (Germany's) presidency."

Asked if there was a consensus around the new package, she replied: "Oh, not remotely."

Sticking points remain

The original draft constitution, aimed at streamlining EU decision-making, was signed by all member states but was suspended after French and Dutch voters rejected it in national referendums in 2005.

Treffen der Außenminster Iran Atom-Konflikt in London Magaret Beckett
British Foreign Secretary Margaret BeckettImage: AP

Beckett said there were many sticking points, not least of which was persuading the French and the Dutch that their concerns were being met.

"The French and the Dutch have to be able to say that this is different because otherwise they will only get turned over again and, you know, that is not an easy problem to resolve," she said.

She said she could envision circumstances in which a constitution could be ratified without a referendum, but much work had to be done to achieve a consensus and some politicians had to be more ambitious about change.

"There's been a certain kind of mood music, shall we say, from some quarters that, oh well, really hardly anything needs to change," she said.

To date 18 of the 27 EU nations have formally ratified the constitution treaty.

The German government has stressed its wish to revive the treaty and prepare a revised text as close as possible to the original draft prepared by an EU intergovernmental committee.