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Friday, Feb. 9, 2007
LISBON READY TO HEAD UNION
Portugal optimistic EU will OK constitution: foreign minister
Portugal, which will assume the European Union presidency later this year, is optimistic that EU members will reach a consensus on a proposed constitution, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said in a recent interview with The Japan Times in Tokyo.
The EU has faced many internal crises in the past, but member countries have eventually overcome them thanks to Europe's long tradition of multilateralism, he said.
"It's important political experience that no one wants to give up," said Amado, who was in Tokyo on Wednesday and Thursday. "I believe that in the end, everybody will understand we need much more cooperation."
But now that the EU has expanded to 27 member states, finding consensus on issues is proving harder, most notably on the proposed constitution.
The constitution is designed to speed up the decision-making process by, among other measures, establishing a new EU presidency post with a fixed term of 2 1/2 years to strengthen continuity, replacing the rotating presidency that exists now.
But ratification hit a snag when French and Dutch voters spurned the proposal in national referendums in May and June 2005, respectively. As a result, Portugal put the brakes on its own moves to ratify the proposed constitution.
Amado, however, claims that because polls have shown a majority of Portuguese favor deepening EU integration, the country will ratify the proposed constitution.
Amado also pointed out that Germany, the current EU president, is now preparing new proposals for the constitution ahead of an EU summit at the end of June.
"So we will wait for that report to see what we can do during our (EU) presidency," Amado said.
According to Amado, the No. 2 priority of the 18-month program, which includes a six-month stint with Slovenia in the presidency next year, is to make the EU "a strong player" in the world, particularly in terms of innovation and technology. This is followed by migration issues.