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European leaders using EU as scapegoat - Barroso

Written by: Staff
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BRUSSELS, May 10 (Reuters) European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso today accused Europe's national leaders of undermining the bloc by breaking pledges to work together and using Brussels as a scapegoat for their own failures.

Barroso urged them to sign a declaration next year that they were genuinely ready to promote EU-wide policies on the economy and security, insisting the EU had to win back its credibility before it could think about salvaging its stalled constitution.

''That's why in fact I am challenging national leaders. I am asking them: Are you committed or not to this project of living together in Europe? ... It is good that you say it, that European citizens understand it,'' he told a news conference.

In an unusually forthright attack on member states by the head of the bloc's Brussels-based executive, Barroso said they had gone back on agreements to reform Europe's economy and boost EU-wide efforts to combat crime and terrorism.

He complained of the lack of process on the so-called ''Lisbon Agenda'' of reforms aimed at making the EU's economy the fittest in the world.

''Sometimes it happens that we agree about the goals at summits but afterwards they (national leaders) don't give the EU institutions the means to achieve those goals,'' he said.

Without citing any leader by name, Barroso said some were happy to claim EU policy successes as their own while insisting that ''when they have a problem it is Europe's problem''.

CHARTER STALEMATE The past 12 months have been among the most difficult in the bloc's half-century history, with French and Dutch rejections of an ambitious new EU-wide constitution consigning it to the deep freeze and growing doubts over its enlargement policy.

Estonia yeterday became the 15th country to ratify the constitution, which provides for a long-term EU president, more democratic voting rules and more say for national parliaments.

However the charter is unlikely ever to take effect in its current form given that it must be endorsed by all EU states.

Recent months have seen mutual accusations of economic protectionism in the bloc as France and Spain stand accused of trying to stymie cross-border takeovers.

Some politicians, meanwhile, have accused Brussels of being in thrall to free market theories.

Barroso's attack came as he presented Commission ideas for a June summit aimed at mapping a way out of the stalemate on the EU charter.

He said he hoped that by producing concrete results in areas such as helping European consumers, jobseekers and tackling crime, the EU could win back credibility and find a way out of the institutional impasse by 2009, when his mandate ends.

Barroso proposed on Monday using existing treaty provisions to remove national vetoes on criminal justice and police cooperation, rejecting accusations that he was trying to push through parts of a constitution already rejected by voters.

Finland's parliament began a debate today on ratifying the constitution, with parties in the coalition government speaking out in support of the treaty, as expected, along with some opposition lawmakers.

The legislature is likely to take a preliminary vote by the end of the week and the cabinet will then decide whether to formally propose that legislators approve it.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen wants Finland to ratify the constitution before it takes over the EU presidency on July 1.

Reuters SY DB2007

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