Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, December 14, 2007

European Union president to represent Europe on the world stage

Treaty on Running European Union Is Signed NYT: December 14, 2007
BRUSSELS — Gathering in a 16th-century monastery in Lisbon, European Union leaders signed a new treaty on Thursday that changes the way the 27-member bloc is run. Those changes include the creation of a permanent post of European Union president to represent Europe on the world stage.
The treaty replaces the failed attempt to create a European constitution, which foundered after French and Dutch voters rejected it in referendums two years ago.
The post of president, with a term of two and a half years, will replace the unwieldy system by which European Union leaders and nations rotate holding the presidency every six months. The new treaty also alters the way decisions are made in the union. More decisions will be made by majority vote instead of by unanimous agreement, a threshold that critics said had hindered the union’s reaction to some major issues. Foreign policy duties will be concentrated in a single new representative.
The European leaders hailed the treaty, saying it would help the union overcome the political drift that has troubled it since the humbling defeats in the referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005. Its main achievements so far have included a common currency, the euro, in 13 member states; open borders among Continental members; and the extension of membership to several former Communist countries in 2004.
“Europe was blocked, not knowing how to move forward, and we found the solution,” said José Sócrates, the Portuguese prime minister and the ceremony’s host. Portugal holds the union’s six-month presidency.
The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said, “By resolving its institutional matters, Europe is readying itself to address global problems.”
The treaty was signed in the Jerónimos Monastery while a choir sang Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” It will take effect after being ratified by all 27 countries in the European Union, a process that should be completed by 2009 — if Ireland agrees.
During the process of trying to approve a constitution, many countries planned referendums, but only Ireland will put the new treaty to a popular vote. In the other 26 countries, parliamentary ratification seems more certain.
In a sign of the lingering schisms between countries, and the ambivalence that some governments feel toward the process of European integration, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, missed the signing ceremony. It was widely perceived as a snub to Britain’s neighbors. Blaming a scheduling clash, Mr. Brown — alone among the leaders — arrived late and signed the treaty alone.
The European Union is deeply unpopular among some sections of the British public, as it is in several other European countries, and Britain’s popular press is skeptical about the benefits of European integration and the surrender of national sovereignty.
Mr. Brown’s absence from the ceremony enraged supporters of the European Union. “It’s a complete and absolute scandal,” said Andrew Duff, a pro-European Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament.
Likely contenders for the new presidency include Tony Blair, the former British prime minister; Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark; Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg; and a former Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski. Stephen Castle reported from Brussels, and Graham Bowley from New York.

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