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European leaders agree to landmark EU reform treaty

[JURIST] EU leaders reached an agreement on a proposed constitutional treaty [JURIST news archive] following two days of tough negotiations early Saturday, compromising to reach a deal which will be the basis for the Intergovernmental Conference to author the text of the treaty at the end of 2007. The proposed treaty, which EU leaders hope will be ratified before 2009 EU parliamentary elections, satisfied key objections from the UK and Polish government. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website] outlined four-non-negotiable "red lines" [JURIST report] earlier this week, objecting in particular to any proposed incorporation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights [European Parliament materials], which EU leaders agreed will not affect UK law. The agreement also delayed the adoption of a proposed "double majority" voting system until 2014, which will be phased in a period of three years. Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has previously threatened to veto any proposed treaty [JURIST report] unless it were voting rights similar to those established in the 200 Nice Treaty, which established a qualified majority voting system [BBC backgrounder] that gave Poland more power. The "double majority" proposal will require at least 55 percent of the ministers inn the Council of the European Union to vote in favor of a measure, but also requires that the minister voting in favor represent at least 65 percent of the EU's total population.

The treaty - in effect a cut-down version of the stalled European constitution [JURIST news archive] - will create a full time EU president, as well as organize regular meetings of EU heads of states. A European office for an unified foreign minister will also be created, and will be provided the resources and support to represent the EU as a single body. The reforms will also slim down the European Commission beginning in 2014, and transfer more power to the European Parliament. Current EU Council President and German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website] described as a "significant step" forward [press release] for the European Union to act as a unified body. BBC News has more. AP as additional coverage.

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