EU treaty dispute unresolved, Poland insists on change


Luxembourg : A meeting of EU foreign ministers brought no breakthroughs in the standoff over a new treaty for the 27-member European Union, but there were signs of progress.

Support TwoCircles

Poland still plans to veto any changes to the EU's current voting rights system, threatening to derail a Brussels summit this week, but German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier late Sunday said the sides had come closer to reaching an accord.

"Of course we still have no guarantee that the success in the European Council (in Brussels) we all hope for – that we are working on so intensively – will happen," Steinmeier said after hours of talks with his EU counterparts here.

Steinmeier said that the 18 countries, which ratified the EU constitution, were now prepared to adopt a new treaty instead. Plans for a constitution have been on hold since voters in France and the Netherlands rejected it.

Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency, hopes the Brussels summit Thursday and Friday will pave the way for a conference to adopt the new treaty.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said there were "no breakthroughs" during the meeting Sunday, "but there was movement on individual points".

Poland is demanding fresh talks over a set of voting procedures agreed in the now-defunct EU constitution, whereas Germany is insisting that the existing accord altering the so-called "double-majority" voting not be unravelled.

The agreed changes decrease Poland's voting weight in the 27-member EU. The Czech Republic has backed Poland's position, though has not specifically threatened to use its veto.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Polish President Lech Kaczynski this weekend, said she could not rule out the Brussels summit might fail.

"I can say no more than that the different opinions are there," she said after meeting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

"I can only say that it was a very open discussion and willingness was of course manifest on all sides that we would like to have a successful summit, but in this matter the positions have not changed," Merkel said.

Merkel rejected Poland's demand that talks on voting procedures be re-opened, saying it was better to leave the agreement, reached after long and tough negotiations between all members, in place.

Juncker said he backed Merkel's position in the standoff.

"If this summit fails, then it certainly will not be the fault of Germany leading the negotiations," Juncker said.

Since Friday, Merkel has held talks with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, Poland's Kaczynski and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, in an effort to resolve the impasse.