[JURIST] European Union leaders marked the 50th anniversary [official website] of the Treaty of Rome [text] Sunday by signing a declaration [press release] aimed at revitalizing efforts to pass an European constitution [JURIST news archive; text]. The non-binding Berlin Declaration [PDF] states that the 27 leaders of the EU are "united in [their] aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009." While addressing challenges facing Europe such as terrorism and global warming, the document does not use the word "constitution" [JURIST report], at the request of several nations which are reluctant to sign a treaty. German Chancellor Angela Merkel [BBC profile], whose country currently holds the Presidency of the European Union [German presidency official website] expressed hope that the Declaration would provide momentum for constitutional discussion: "If [the Declaration] meets the criteria, it could be the basis for an inter-governmental conference (ICG)" when Portugal assumes the EU presidency in July. AFP has more.
Prime Ministers Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium and Anders Fogh Rasmussen [BBC profiles] of Denmark said Sunday that the Declaration effectively means that a constitutional accord must be reached by the end of the year in order to be universally ratified by 2009. The constitution has faced great opposition, most notably in referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] in 2005, which put consideration of the charter on hold. The Berlin Declaration itself has been criticized for not democratically involving the 27 leaders in its drafting. Bloomberg has more.