Changes accepted for EU constitution

Stephen Castle
Saturday 08 February 2003 01:00

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing demanded a more unified European Union foreign policy yesterday as he defended his controversial draft of the EU constitution against claims that it would transfer power to Brussels. The former French president, chairing a convention on the future of Europe, promised to make textual changes to the first 16 draft articles of the constitution after protests from Britain.

On Thursday, Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Wales who sits on the 105-strong convention, claimed the document did not reflect the group's work. Yesterday M. Giscard agreed some of Mr Hain's objections were valid, and promised to make clear in subsequent drafts that the EU's powers derive from member states and not vice versa.

But he offered no concessions on the issue of foreign and economic policy co-ordination, which features prominently in his draft. Although the EU already performs many of these functions, Britain objects to the clear-cut text laid down by M. Giscard. Nor did he comment on British objections to the use of the word "federal" in the text.

On foreign policy, M. Giscard said the divisions among the EU member states over Iraq showed the need for unity. There was, he said "an urgent need to act because, obviously, this situation is not acceptable". Europe was, he added "the third power on the planet". The former Belgian premier Jean-Luc Dehaene warned: "You cannot create a common foreign policy by decree."

The Iraq crisis has exposed deep divisions in the EU. Britain, Spain, Italy and two east European nations waiting to join the bloc have rallied behind Washington. France, Germany and others have opposed any rush to war.

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