EU leaders want constitution
before new members arrive in 2004

The draft, unveiled in Brussels, would commit member states to backing a common EU foreign policy, a measure aiming to prevent the disunity which was so evident before the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"Member states shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity." says the draft document.

The document requires all member states to the Unions  common interests.  

"They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to undermine its effectiveness." it says.

The proposed constitution also provides for a president elected by EU leaders to serve as a figurehead for at least two-and-a-half years and an elected foreign minister to carry out a unified European foreign policy.

Early days

The launch marks the start of the constitutional debate and amounts to the completion of the first phase of the negotiations, which may continue into next year.

Head of the 105-member strong Convention on Europe's Future, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, has spent 15 months drafting a document he hopes will be accepted in principle next June.

The text will be reviewed once more by the full Convention later this week, then given its first assessment by EU leaders at a summit in Greece next month.

In the autumn an intergovernmental conference will be convened - effectively a rolling programme of meetings of EU leaders and senior ministers to decide whether or not to accept the new Treaty.

d'Estaing met with Blair last week,
Britain is showing itself sensitive
to EU constitution

Several EU member states have already promised they would hold a referendum on the Constitution, including Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Spain.
 
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw does not support a referendum and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who succeeded in having the word ‘federal’ removed from the draft, has promised to use the veto in any key areas that run counter to British interests.

Frontrunner

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, despite his repeated denials, is emerging as the frontrunner for a likely new post of European Union foreign minister.

"Forget it," the leading Green told Der Spiegel magazine when pressed. "I like being German foreign minister."
   
But with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder calling him an "excellent candidate", the 55-year-old has a good chance of becoming the EU's first foreign minister even before a job description is finalised.

To date, speculation concerning possible candidates for the EU presidency has not met with much consensus, though Schroeder believes it is likely to go to a politician from one of the smaller EU members.