Friday, May 30, 2003
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By Batuk Gathani
Mr Prodi said the draft is "disappointing, not ambitious and a step backwards''. Mr. Prodi's blunt criticism comes exactly a day after publication of all four parts of the draft. Many eyebrows have been raised in major European capitals amid the realisation that Mr. Prodi could also be feeling "insecure and unappreciated'' about his own future role in the emerging European Union.
It is also ironical that Mr. Prodi also criticised Valary Giscard d'Estaing, the current chairman of the 105-member European Convention the forum where the draft was debated and agreed upon. It is also an open secret that there is little love lost between Mr. Prodi and Mr. Giscard d'Estaing. Mr Prodi is the former Prime Minister of Italy.
In the 1970s, Mr. Giscard d'Estaing was a widely admired Finance Minister and later President of France. Both are "pan-European federalists'' but currently have differing perceptions on the future of the E.U. It is now proposed that the future President of the European Commission the post which Mr. Prodi is currently holding should be elected by the heads of the governments of the member states and Mr. Prodi may not be heading the popularity list.
Mr. Prodi's supporters in the European Commission have argued that since Mr. Giscard d'Estaing was the President of France and hosted the summit of the E.U. Government leaders in Paris in 1974, he is favouring the interests of the larger E.U. member states such as France and Germany.
While Germany, France and Italy are pursuing the goals of creating a federal, integrated and expanded E.U., Britain is suspected of "sitting on the fence'' by the continental Europeans. Last night, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, fuelled the furore over the E.U.'s future, when he stated that time was approaching when the British public must decide whether Britain should be in the E.U. or not.
This has become a highly emotive and divisive issue in Britain and if the current British public opinion polls are any criterion, the people remain sharply divided about the country's role in the E.U.
Mr Blair indicated that the current debate over the Constitution was driven by media `hysteria' and all this raised deeper issues of British membership. However, he agreed that the debate did not warrant a national plebiscite.
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