France keeps up pressure to scrap EU vetoes

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The Independent Online

France has stepped up the pressure on EU nations to limit the number of European Commissioners sent to Brussels and to allow the national veto to be scrapped in sensitive areas including tax.

France has stepped up the pressure on EU nations to limit the number of European Commissioners sent to Brussels and to allow the national veto to be scrapped in sensitive areas including tax.

Documents circulated yesterday by the French, who hold the EU's rotating presidency, ahead of a key meeting in Brussels tomorrow of ministers responsible for Europe, is a determined effort to reach a breakthrough in a series of deadlocked negotiations.

The diplomatic push raises the stakes over majority voting and proposes a ceiling for the Commission that could lead to the end of the right for each country to appoint a Commissioner. It also re-opens the issue of whether the Charter of Fundamental Rights should be incorporated into EU law.

With less than three weeks before the crucial summit of EU leaders in Nice, all member states agree on the need for reform of Europe's sclerotic decision-making process, ahead of European enlargement to admit up to 13 new countries.

At Nice, the EU's bigger states are expected to give up the right to send two Commissioners to Brussels, to prevent the 20-strong college of Commissioners becoming unwieldy after enlargement. The latest suggestion is that the size of the Commission is capped at either 15, 20 or 22. This would come to pass either at a specific date - 2005 or 2010 are suggested - or when the EU enlarges from 15 members to 20, 22, 25 or 27.

Tomorrow the French presidency will also seek to break the deadlock in moves to abolish the national veto in new areas of decision-making. Despite a threat from Britain to block extension of majority voting in decisions on tax or social security, the French text includes chapters on both issues.

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