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German chancellor presses European constitution ahead of EU summit

[JURIST] German Chancellor Angel Merkel [official website] Saturday urged European Union [official website] members to work together to advance a European constitution [JURIST news archive], largely stalled since referendum setbacks in France and the Netherlands in 2005. Merkel, whose country currently holds the EU presidency [German presidency website], was speaking at a mini-summit with key European leaders held in Portugal in the lead-up to a major EU leaders meeting scheduled for June 21-22. Germany has made revival of the constitution a key part of its presidency program, but its six month tenure expires at the end of June. Leaders from Portugal and Slovenia, scheduled to follow Germany in the EU presidency, attended the informal meeting along with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso. Incoming French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a simplified, shortened treaty instead of the longer more comprehensive agreement originally foreseen; outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed support for such a "mini-treaty" after meeting with Sarkozy Friday. AFP has more.

In March, European Union leaders gathered in Berlin marked the 50th anniversary [official website] of the foundational Treaty of Rome by signing a declaration aimed at revitalizing efforts to pass a European constitution. The non-binding Berlin Declaration [PDF] said 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 did not use the word "constitution" [JURIST report] at the request of several nations which favor a more limited accord.

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