- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

BRUSSELS — A proposed European constitution released yesterday calls for an elected president of Europe and a binding bill of rights, but at Britain’s insistence, it drops the notion of creating a federal “United States of Europe.”

The document, drawn up by a 105-member committee led by former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, calls for the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency to be replaced by an EU president, elected from the current batch of heads of state, for 2 years. It also favors creating the post of EU foreign minister to represent the bloc on the world stage

Perhaps as important, at least to the British, is that the document does not use the term “federal” and that the European Union would not be renamed “United Europe” nor the “United States of Europe.”

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who represents Britain on the 105-member convention, said the draft text showed that London has made “good progress” in influencing the proposals.

“We are burying once and for all the fantasies of a Brussels superstate. Europe will remain a union of sovereign nation-states with governments such as Britain’s in charge,” he said.

However, the opposition Conservative Party, which wants a referendum on any EU constitution, said the draft constitution is still “unacceptable” and would “sign away crucial areas of national competence” to Brussels.

Mr. Giscard d’Estaing’s blueprint, which will be debated by convention members Friday and Saturday, aims to define who does what in a union that is set to almost double in size during the next four years.

The document’s power-sharing proposals have gone down well with larger member states — such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain — but are fiercely opposed by smaller states.

Popular among delegates to the Brussels-based convention, which has been compared to the Constitutional Convention that gave birth to the United States, are proposals intended to boost the bloc’s foreign policy powers.

In a nod to the recent splits about Iraq, the draft text released yesterday calls on members to “actively and unreservedly support the EU’s common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity.”

It also commits the 15 members to come to one another’s defense in the event of terrorist attacks.

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