EU leaders have adopted a declaration calling for some of the reforms proposed in the bloc's stalled constitution to be carried out by 2009. The so-called 'Berlin Declaration' was issued to mark 50 years of union, which was founded by the Treaty of Rome in 1957; celebrations took place throughout Europe to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty.
There is no explicit mention of the most divisive issues - future enlargement to admit Turkey and the Balkan nations, and the EU constitution. However, correspondents say the call to place the EU 'on a renewed common basis' before the June 2009 elections to the European Parliament is a coded reference to institutional reforms.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted the meeting of EU leaders, said that a conference to agree a new treaty could be held later this year. She said that Portugal could organise an intergovernmental conference when it takes over the EU presidency from Germany in July.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the EU needed 'more effective rules', adding that the 'sooner it is resolved the better'. However, Polish President Lech Kaczyński said that ratifying a new treaty by June 2009 was 'unachievable'. He said that he and some other EU leaders understood the wording of the Berlin Declaration to mean that the treaty could be agreed by 2009, but not ratified.
European leaders are divided about how closely any new treaty should resemble the constitution, which stalled when French and Dutch rejected the measure by public referendum in 2005. Germany and Italy are keen to preserve the constitution largely intact, while the UK and the Netherlands want a different, less integrationist treaty, which would protect national sovereignty.
26 March 2007