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UK agrees to euro reference in EU birthday declaration

06.03.2007 – 17:41 CET | By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The UK has agreed to a reference to the euro currency in the EU’s 50th anniversary declaration, while France is keen to secure that the text will not call for uncontrolled future enlargement of the union.

UK prime minister Tony Blair will not oppose the mentioning of the euro as one the EU’s historic achievements in the solemn Berlin declaration to be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday (8 March), a British official told EUobserver.

“This declaration is a celebration of everything that Europe has achieved. For some member states that also includes the euro, so it is therefore right that the declaration should note their achievement,” the official said.

London, which has kept its pound sterling and has no plans to introduce the euro, was so far said to oppose a reference to the EU currency in the anniversary statement.

The euro had emerged as one of the controversial aspects in the Berlin declaration, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Treaty of Rome and which will be signed by EU leaders on 25 March.

But European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists on Tuesday that “I think there should be a reference to the euro and I think there will be a reference to the euro.”

“So far in my contacts with leaders, I have seen no-one opposing that,” he added.

The EU birthday document, currently under covert preparation by the German EU presidency, has sparked a broad debate among member states who each have particular sensitivities with the text.

One of these sensitive issues – EU enlargement – was also mentioned by Mr Barroso, who stated that “I think a great reference should be made to enlargement – not only to the past enlargement but also to the possibility for the European Union to include other countries if those countries meet the criteria.”

“And if the EU meets the criteria to welcome new members,” a French diplomat reacted to Mr Barroso’s words.

“This means having the budget, the common policies, the institutions and particularly [support by] public opinion,” he added.

“If a reference is made [in the declaration] to enlargement, we should also mention the conditions for making enlargement a success,” he stated reflecting the French population’s strong reservations towards future EU expansion.

Another outstanding question is how to refer to the union’s institutional condition in the birthday text.

It was Mr Barroso himself who last May launched the idea of the anniversary declaration, saying back then that the text should lay the basis for a new institutional settlement following the “no” votes in France and the Netherlands against the EU constitution in 2005.

“I hope that in the declaration, there is a clear reference to the institutions,” he said on Thursday calling for a “commitment of all the member states to the settlement of the constitutional question.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel is also expected to try and convince EU leaders this week to include a reference to a new treaty, with German diplomats mooting in the past few weeks that member states should commit themselves to deadlines for re-negotiating a new constitution text.

The eventual wording on the institutions is however likely to be less binding and more general, with several states such as Poland and the UK disliking the idea of a fast-moving constitutional revival process.

“Are we going to put the we put it the timing in in the declaration or not? I don’t believe that’s the crucial issue,” said Mr Barroso explaining that EU leaders have already agreed to have the matter solved before 2009.

German diplomats said the text is likely to avoid words like “constitution” or “constitutional” reflecting a growing EU consensus that a new treaty should simply be called a “treaty” and not a constitution.

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