- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

BRUSSELS The European Union took a step toward becoming a single federal body yesterday when the man given the task of simplifying the bloc's Byzantine decision-making procedures sketched out plans for an ambitious EU constitution.
Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who heads the 105-member Convention on the Future of Europe, told delegates a "union of European states" should "administer certain common competencies on a federal basis."
Mr. Giscard, who has compared his role to that of U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, also suggested that the European Union should also change its name to reflect the Continent's new unity after 10 Central and Eastern European states join the alliance in 2004.
"United States of Europe" and "United Europe" were two names suggested by the 76-year-old politician.
One of Mr. Giscard's proposals is to grant dual citizenship to EU inhabitants.
At present, Europeans carry standardized burgundy passports, but they are first and foremost citizens of a single nation, like Britain or France. The draft constitution released yesterday allows Europeans to choose either national or EU citizenship.
Another idea likely to spark debate is the proposal to give the European Union its own "legal personality." This could lead to the European Union having a seat in international forums such as the U.N. Security Council.
Presenting his draft constitution to convention members in Brussels, Mr. Giscard said, "We need a constitutional treaty to mark the beginning of a new Europe as we admit new members into our midst."
The 15-member bloc does not have a constitution. Instead it is governed by dozens of treaties and protocols some of which date back almost half a century that are widely considered to be unreadable and unintelligible.
Mr. Giscard's solution is to draw up a short, simplified constitution laying out the European Union's goals and the rights of its citizens in clear language.
"The constitution should be somewhat lyrical so that students, schoolchildren and workers should be able to read it," he told the convention of parliamentarians and government ministers.
Euroskeptics immediately attacked Giscard's plans. Hans Lindqvist, leader of the European Alliance of EU-Critical Movements, said an "EU superstate is in the making, planned in a top-down manner by Mr. Giscard's convention."
However, Inigo Mendez de Vigo the head of the European Parliament's delegation to the convention hailed the text as an ambitious attempt to "refound Europe with a clear constitutional framework for the future."

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