PM Spidla in Brussels for crucial conference on European Union constitution

10-12-2003

All eyes will be on Brussels in the next couple of days, as the European Union's current members and the ten new countries joining in May attempt to hammer out an agreement on the EU's first constitution. Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla arrived at the inter-governmental conference, or IGC, on Wednesday with one of the Czech Republic's main demands - a voting member of the European Commission for all 25 states - evidently agreed on. Ivo Slosarcik of the think tank Europeum told me other key issues could be harder to resolve.

Vladimir SpidlaVladimir Spidla "It seems from the Czech...debate the problem of the composition of the European Commission will be solved. There will be one commissioner per country, as it is now, so this I think will be fulfilled. But there will be big debate on the voting rights in the Council of Ministers. It's even likely - because there is really no consensus among member states - that this solution will be postponed.

"Like, for instance, today in the convention proposal the solution of the composition of the European Parliament is postponed. There are some guidelines, but the precise composition of the new parliament, from 2008, will be set in the future."

Theoretically, of course, the Czech delegation can choose to veto the constitution if they don't agree with it - is there any chance at all that that could happen?

"I think there is a chance of that. There are two scenarios under which the Czech Republic will veto, or quasi, veto the treaty. Firstly, joining a bigger coalition of states, maybe new-coming states, or old member states, which would be created by three, four, five states. And secondly, a veto which would not look like an absolute veto but will more or less push the IGC to continue over Christmas and into the Irish presidency."

Poland is a much bigger country than the Czech Republic. The Poles have a reputation at the EU for being very stubborn negotiators, they know what they want and they're going to get it. How are the Czechs seen at Brussels?

"I would slightly disagree would the interpretation of the Poles as stubborn and hard-liners in negotiations. They might be hard-liners, having behind them the fact they are the biggest country from among the new-comers. But at the end of the day, they got more or less the same conditions as the Czech Republic.

"Secondly, in the EU institutions, I think now is the crucial phase. The Czech Republic is not in the EU yet, but its agents, experts from the ministries or ambassadors in Brussels are involved, and invited to take part in the working groups, meetings, etc, etc. What the people who are involved there say, the people from the Commission and the Council, is that the Czechs are one of the most active of the newcomers. Not just sitting there listening, being afraid to talk, but actively formulating their position. So if this continues I think the Czech reputation in Brussels will be rather high."

10-12-2003