Dutch and UK unite for EU treaty

The Netherlands and Britain are calling for a new ‘light’ European treaty to replace plans for a European Union constitution and supplement existing treaties, the two countries’ prime ministers said late on Monday.

Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende was in London for a lightning visit to his British counterpart Tony Blair.
On Tuesday, UK newspapers said that Blair had given ‘his strongest indication yet’ that Britain will refuse to sign up to anything more than minor changes, putting him on a collision course with Germany. Germany currently holds the EU presidency and is keen to restart constitution talks in June.
Talks on the future of the EU have been in deadlock for the past two years. The 18 member states that have approved the EU constitution still want it to proceed but seven countries, including Britain, have still not taken a formal position on the issue. The Netherlands and France rejected the constitution in referenda in 2005.
‘We are both anxious to work closely with the German presidency… and we have a lot of faith in the German chancellor in bringing this to a sensible conclusion,’ Balkenende said at a news conference after the talks with Blair.
‘We are not disrespecting the views of those that have ratified the constitutional treaty. What we are trying to say is, given the political reality – not just in our two countries but in Europe – it is sensible to go back to a more traditional way of doing this,’ Balkenende said.
Blair said yesterday that the Dutch and the UK positions were ‘very close indeed’ and that he endorsed the Dutch position outlined in parliament last month. In a memo to MPs, foreign minister Maxime Verhagen said a new European treaty should make a clear separation between national and European policy. And that Brussels should avoid trying to regulate national issues such as social security provision and public services.
The new treaty should focus on repairing shortcomings in existing treaties, Verhagen said. It is a about making a ‘better’, more democratic and more focused Europe, not creating the image of a European super state, he said.

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