PM promises Czechs will not block talks on reviving EU constitution

Photo: European Commission

The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek promised in Brussels on Tuesday that his country would not block talks on reviving a constitution for the European Union. Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, wants to get a new constitution approved in time for the next round of elections to the European Parliament in 2009. The Germans certainly have their work cut out - countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Britain are not keen on reviving the project, which was torpedoed by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Zuzana Kasakova is from the European policy think tank Europeum. We asked her whether she believed the constitution could be revived.

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
"It's a really difficult question. The current text required a lot of work to approve, so I really cannot imagine how the European governments could come and discuss something new and find a new consensus for it. It really depends on political will."

On Monday Mr Topolanek promised not to block the European constitution, but he did warn that negotiations could drag on because his coalition may need time to negotiate a compromise. What do you think he was he really saying?

"I think they probably want to gain some time, because it's rather difficult to find a compromise here. At first, [Mr Topolanek's] Civic Democrats discussed it, and agreed that there should be a completely new document, without any references to the current one. Now, we see that the government has agreed that the basis will be the current document, and they'll discuss it."

The Civic Democrats have teamed up with Britain's Conservatives to form a new anti-integrationist bloc within the European Parliament. What chance do you think they have of slowing down deeper integration of the EU?

"Do you think this is an anti-European movement? It's a Movement for European Reform. Yes, on one hand they want to slow down some aspects of integration. But on the other hand, they want to liberalise the EU. They want the European Union to be more competitive with the rest of the world, for example India and China is their main argument for that. I think the European Union should be more competitive, and the European Commission thinks that too, because of the revised strategy. But there are other states in the EU that claim the European Union and the constitution should be more social. Yes, that is also true, the European Union has to pay attention to social inclusion, to social inequality. But I think it has to be hand in hand with economic competitiveness."

Photo: European Commission
Mr Topolanek also said that talks on a constitution might be faster if EU governments agreed on a "slimmed down" version of the treaty, a kind of "EU Constitution Lite" if you will. Do you think there's some truth in that?

"Yes, I think so. If we have a more simplified document, which is not very detailed, I think it would be clear for everyone. When you have a more simplified document, easier to read and understandable to all, of course it's better for EU governments and EU politicians and EU officials to agree on. And also easier to communicate to the people."

Easier to sell to the people.

"Yes, easier to sell, of course."