[JURIST] Foreign ministers of EU member states began formal negotiations on the proposed Reform Treaty [materials, in French] Monday. Foreign ministers convened the 2007 Intergovernmental Conference [official website; conference agenda, PDF] in Brussels, circulating drafts of the proposed treaty so that the respective states' legal experts can meet Tuesday and Wednesday to begin preliminary negotiations to finalize the details of the landmark agreement [JURIST report; press release] reached between EU members in June. Portugal, which took over the EU Presidency [official website] on July 1, is hoping to complete the negotiation process by October [JURIST report], so that member states can sign the treaty at a December summit and complete the ratification process before the June 2009 European parliamentary elections.
The reform treaty, essentially a cut-down version of the stalled European constitution [JURIST news archive], has generated much debate between EU members. In June, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski [official profile] sought to reopen debate on the proposal by insisting a different interpretation [JURIST report] of the reform agreement reached by EU leaders, which could derail the process. In early June, the UK government also insisted on four-non-negotiable "red lines" [JURIST report], objecting in particular to any incorporation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights [European Parliament materials]. EUobserver has more.