EU draft constitution provokes criticism

EU officials are unveiling further details of a draft constitution for the enlarged European Union on Tuesday, fueling increasingly fierce debate, especially in Britain.

    British government decides in two
    weeks whether to join fully or not

    British euro-sceptics are demanding a referendum on its contents as they warn that the country risks being overtaken by a European super-state. 

    "Britain would cease to exist as a sovereign nation," said the British Daily Mail newspaper, which has spearheaded a campaign against what it fears is a power-grab from Brussels. 

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair was quick to point out the successful retention of EU member states' 'right of veto' on foreign policy, and the absence of plans to harmonize tax systems across the Union.
    But the draft is certain to spark a political row in Britain because it suggests scrapping the national veto on some tax and social security policies.

    The Conservative Party criticisms expose political fault lines over Europe a fortnight before Chancellor Gordon Brown is to announce the result of the Treasury's five tests on British entry to the single European currency.

    More complaints

    Other member states had different criticisms, particularly with regard to the question of reform of EU institutions in an enlarged EU.

    Smaller EU states, backed by the commission, have rejected plans for a European president, fearing they will only strengthen the domination by heavyweights like, Germany, France and Britain.

    Under the current rotating system, each country holds the EU presidency for six months.

    Maltese jubilant at joining the 
    European Union last month

    Former French President Giscard d' Estaing has proposed the creation of a full-time president for the decision-making European Council, as well as a EU foreign minister.   

    "This is not acceptable to smaller member states. They would be giving up all their rights," said Elmar Brok, a German Eu-deputy. 

    EU response
    The European Commission gave a cautious welcome to the latest draft. "We can see that there is some progress in some areas," said Vice President Neil Kinnock.
    But he warned about duplication of powers. "The risk of duplication of executive function is still there," he said, adding: "Things need to be clarified."  


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