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New EU chair vows to keep constitution alive

Written by: Staff
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Brussels, Jun 29: Incoming European Union president Finland said today it wanted all the key institutional reforms in the stalled EU constitution to come into effect in a new treaty in 2008.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told a news conference his country would work to keep the charter, rejected by French and Dutch voters last year, alive and to avoid any 'cherry-picking' of its key features.

''Even if we know with almost 100 percent probability that the treaty in its present form will not come into force, the task of the presidency is to keep the process alive so that in due time we can return to it,'' Tuomioja said.

''We hope we can have a new treaty in 2008 and if it's not quite the same treaty, as much as possible of the institutional balance ... will be retained,'' he said.

EU leaders agreed this month to a 2008 deadline for deciding on the fate of the constitution and institutional reform amid widespread recognition that any progress will have to await next year's elections in France and the Netherlands.

The charter would give the EU a long-term president and a foreign minister as well as a simpler, more democratic voting system, giving greater weight to population size, to make decision-making easier in an enlarged bloc.

Tuomioja said the easiest thing to jettison, if something had to be left out of the existing treaty, was the name ''constitution'', but the key reforms should not be changed otherwise the whole compromise could unravel.

He said Finland would also seek to help the 25-nation bloc modernise its economy and promote innovation, sharing if asked its own successful model combining high levels of social security with world-class competitiveness.

It would also seek consensus on ending national vetoes on police and justice cooperation in cross-border crime fighting.

He vowed that Helsinki would do its best to keep the EU enlargement process moving steadily forward despite the risk of a ''dramatic situation'' with Turkey over Cyprus.

Finland would also conduct a wider review of future enlargement policy based on a report from the executive European Commission on the concept of ''absorption capacity'', he said.

But he stressed the debate should be conducted ''in a manner which will not send out the wrong messages ... because it is extremely important to keep the credibility of the European perspective alive'', notably in the Balkans.

REUTERS

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