Auteur: | By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU kicked off its procedural journey towards a new Treaty on Monday with 277 pages of draft Treaty text on the table, and Poland showing a fresh willingness to compromise on the sensitive issue of voting weights.
At the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the Portuguese Presidency presented a full draft version of the new Treaty which is intended to replace the failed EU Constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
The document has the cumbersome working title "Draft Treaty Amending The Treaty On European Union And The Treaty Establishing The European Community" - but it will most likely be called "Reform Treaty," a term used by EU leaders in June.
The core of the text unveiled on Monday, has 145 pages, accompanied by almost as many pages (132) of protocols and declarations. There are total 12 protocols and 51 declarations.
The rejected Constitution had 475 pages of text, but this document was intended to replace all EU Treaties from the past. The newly-proposed Reform Treaty merely amends the existing Maastricht and Rome Treaties, which will legally continue to exist under different names.
The Portuguese draft forms the basis of member states' formal round of negotiations on the new Treaty in an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which was launched at Monday's meeting of foreign ministers.
Portuguese foreign minister Luis Amado says Lisbon is aiming to finalise the IGC talks "as soon as possible" and that it is "sticking to the timetable" to wrap up the talks at an informal EU leaders' meeting in Portugal in October.
The presidency has received some encouragement from Poland, which indicated it would not insist on being able to block decisions in the EU Council - member states' decision-making body, for up to two years.
Warsaw had made its claim under the so-called Ioaninna compromise, which enables an individual member state to delay a decision made by a majority of countries if the decision hurts the interests of that particular country.
But Ana Fotyga, Polish foreign minister, said during the IGC opening ceremony that her country would accept the existing 'Ioaninna' period of blocking legislation of around three months.
She added that in return, Warsaw would like to see the Ioaninna provisions included in the core treaty text instead of in the protocol in order to give it stronger legal status.
Mrs Fotyga's intervention was explained by observers as a watering-down of Warsaw's tough stance on the issue so far.
Andrew Duff, one of the three European Parliament representatives in the IGC talks, said, "this is an improvement of the Polish position." But he added that Warsaw's wish to have the blocking clause included in the core treaty would likely run into fresh resistance from other delegations.
Portugal's Mr Amado said that Mrs Fotyga had given a "positive and constructive intervention", adding that "the issues that Mrs Fotyga raised will be dealt with at the technical level."
Portugal is seeking to keep the IGC talks in the hands of legal experts and not politicians, for as long as possible, to avoid unravelling the detailed political deal on the treaty, which was clinched by EU leaders under the previous EU Presidency in June.
"I will not say there will not at the end be some political problems, but at the moment, that is premature," Mr Amado said.
Czech Vice Prime-Minister Alexandr Vondra, also present at the Brussels meeting, said Prague would support Warsaw's new line on the voting issues, but would also seek further "clarifications" on several institutional technicalities itself.
Another source of political wrangling lies potentially in the UK's opt-out from the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, amid an ongoing debate on the exact scope of the opt-out.
In addition, Poland reaffirmed on Monday that it would like to keep its options open on opting out of the charter.