- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2007

GENEVA — Problems are piling up for Portugal as it takes over the presidency of the 27-nation European Union for the next six months.

They include the rift between Germany and Poland over voting rights, French opposition to Turkey’s membership and complaints about uncontrolled corruption in Bulgaria and Romania, the union’s newest members.

Analysts say the European Union also faces an increasingly militant Russian nationalism, causing concern about “another Cold War,” particularly among former communist member nations.

The debate about increased clout for the bloc on the international scene is beginning to boil, with Poland and the Czech Republic under criticism for accepting a U.S. anti-missile shield on their territories.

Some French analysts say prospects for a European constitution are hazy despite praise for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who ended the German presidency at a summit meeting last month. European analysts say the summit amounted to measures that were hardly more than stopgap and frequently cosmetic.

Summit participants basically agreed to make another attempt to draft a constitution for Europe. The last attempt failed because French and Dutch voters rejected it.

Tony Blair, who stepped down last week as Britain’s prime minister, said the agreement “gives us a chance to move on, a chance to concentrate on the economy … climate change, the environment, energy … the problems that really concerned citizen of Europe.”

However, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, upon assuming the EU presidency this week, said Portugal’s intentions would advance Mrs. Merkel’s accomplishments only “a little bit.” Some European press reports described his statement as “exceptionally modest.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his opposition to Turkey’s membership in the European club, calling for a “thorough examination” of the problem of Europe’s borders.

Poland has asked for a review of the summit’s decision that would reduce Warsaw’s vote in EU decision-making by 2017. Some commentators speculated that the move would lead to a new conflict within the union, particularly because Germany feels Poland has been given an inordinately large number of votes.