domingo, 14 de diciembre de 2003

Calentito, del Financial Times.....

Spain and Poland may pay financial price
By George Parker and Judy Dempsey in Brussels and Hugh Williamson in Berlin
Published: December 14 2003 20:54
Financial Times

Germany has issued dark hints that Spain and Poland will be punished financially for blocking a deal on a new European Union constitution at the divisive EU summit in Brussels at the weekend.

The early breakdown of the meeting on Saturday has thrown the future of the constitutional treaty into doubt, and threatened to open up new rifts in Europe.

Germany is now expected to exact revenge on Spain and Poland early in 2004, when member states start discussing the next EU budget round. Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, warned there were "certain parallels" between the treaty negotiations and the the seven-year EU budget period, which starts in 2007.

Germany, the biggest net contributor to the budget, says it wants to keep spending pegged to just 1 per cent of the EU's GDP, or roughly ?100bn (£70bn, $117bn) a year. That is about ?25bn a year less than many inside the European Commission argue is needed to sustain aid to the poorest EU regions, including southern Spain and all of Poland.

José María Aznar, the Spanish prime minister, and Leszek Miller, his Polish counterpart, refused to agree to a new EU voting system that would have sealed a deal on the new constitution in Brussels.

Although both leaders received domestic praise for defending the existing voting system - which gives Spain and Poland disproportionate power inside the EU - they know there could be a price to pay.

"Poland should now brace itself for serious political and economic repercussions because of its stance over the constitution," said Roman Giertych, leader of the far-right opposition League of Polish Families.

Mr Schröder will now hope German threats of financial retribution will force Spain and Poland to back down when treaty talks finally resume. That may not be for some time, with most expecting the constitutional treaty to remain parked at least until the Dutch EU presidency in the second half of 2004, or even early 2005.

However Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, whose country assumes the EU presidency in January, may decide to try again to broker a deal next June after the European elections - if there is sign of any movement from the main protagonists.

"He is one of the most experienced negotiators in Europe because of the Northern Ireland peace process," said an Irish diplomat. "We'll see what we can do."

The breakdown of the talks prompted French President Jacques Chirac to reopen his warnings that a Europe of 25 was heading for deadlock, and that "pioneer groups" would be needed to push ahead with integration.

"This will provide an engine, an example that will allow Europe to go faster, further and better," he said.

French diplomats said Mr Chirac blamed Polish and Spanish intransigence - and Britain's determination to hold on to its national veto in key fields - as evidence of the need for a so-called avant-garde, or vanguard.

Some suspect Mr Chirac and Mr Schröder were happy for the summit to collapse early, specifically to make that point. "You would think it was a stitch-up by Chirac and Schröder to have the summit collapse," said one east European diplomat.

However, hopes of agreeing an early statement of intent with the EU's other five founding members stumbled when Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and and Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg objected.

"A two-speed Europe would only be the result of persistent disagreements," Mr Juncker said.

Additional reporting by Stefan Wagstyl in Brussels

Spain remains tense with Paris and Berlin
By Judy Dempsey in Brussels
Published: December 14 2003 18:59
Financial Times

Any hope that Spain might improve its relations with France and Germany faded on the weekend after José María Aznar failed to make sufficient compromises over what could have been the European Union's first constitutional treaty.

The Spanish prime minister had refused to give up the generous voting rights his country received under the terms of the Nice Treaty. With half the population of Germany, but possessing almost the same voting power, he was not prepared to back down.

Mr Aznar said he was only defending Spain's national interests.

But José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, secretary general of the Socialist party - now in opposition - that negotiated Spain's entry into the EU in 1986, warned of the dangers that lay ahead for Spain. He said Spain should have stayed close to the Franco-German alliance. Mr Rodríguez Zapatero had already been critical of Mr Aznar's stance on the war in Iraq and his growing Atlanticism. Nevertheless, the summit might have given Spain the chance of mending fences with Paris and Berlin.

Instead, Mr Rodríguez Zapatero said, what was now at stake was "the European culture that our country has developed in the building of Europe".

Spain has never needed France and Germany as much as it does today. It is getting maximum support from the French security and intelligence services to curb Basque separatist extremists. "Without France, we would be in a very bad way," said a Spanish official.

Diplomats say Jacques Chirac, the French president, will not take revenge on Mr Aznar by withholding such co-operation. "But Spain just cannot take it for granted that its national interests can somehow function independently without working with its other EU partners," said another Spanish diplomat.

With Germany, one of the staunchest supporters of Spain's membership to the EU, it will be a different matter. Berlin has made it clear that it will play tough during the EU's 2007-2013 budget negotiations that start next month.

Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, had already warned Spain and Poland that if no treaty agreement was reached it would become hostage to the budget negotiations. "It is about solidarity," he said on Saturday. "Those who gained from EU accession should now pass the gains on to incoming members."

Berlin has denied it would use the budget negotiations as a form of blackmail. "It is not a threat," said Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister. "It is about timetables."

Mr Aznar will be spared Berlin's anger. He quits politics at the general elections in March. His designated successor, Mariano Rajoy, head of the governing Popular party, has vowed to continue the existing policy.

But diplomats said it would be difficult to sustain those policies in the coming months as Germany prepared to challenge Spain's national interests. Germany may not be so magnanimous towards Spain when it comes to EU budget talks.