Would EU constitution be put on ice?

&to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/11/27/40027.html ' target=_blank>European Union leaders have agreed to extend the deadline for ratification of the bloc's embattled constitution following its rejection by voters in France and the Netherlands. The leaders decided they need more time to persuade voters in other EU countries of the charter's merits.

Trying to put a good face on the political disarray caused by the constitution's rejection, the leaders of Europe refuse to admit that the charter is dead, even though it has been rejected by two member states and needs to be approved by all of them to go into effect.

They say that the ratification process must continue. But they say the November 2006 deadline for the constitution's approval by all countries is no longer tenable and that nations that have not yet voted on it need more time to gain public backing. Luxembourg Prime Minister &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/diplomatic/2001/10/14/18022.html ' target=_blank>Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, says there is no question of renegotiating the treaty, informs VOA News.

According to the Financial Times, the first conclusion of the summit was that the constitution would be put on ice, amid speculation it would never be revived. In the meantime, leaders pledged to engage the public to try to revive support for Europe.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg prime minister and chairman of the summit, proposed a "period of reflection" of up to one year, during which all further attempts to ratify the constitution would be abandoned.

That would allow him to cancel his own country's poll, scheduled for July 10. Similar polls in Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Portugal are also likely to be put on hold indefinitely.

Under his proposal, EU leaders would meet again next year to decide whether to revive the treaty, which has to be ratified by all 25 member states.

Mr Chirac's proposal for a special summit, which he suggested could also consider the pace of EU enlargement, could take place in autumn under the British EU presidency.

Although last night's meeting was said to be amicable, tempers could flare today as Mr Juncker tries to broker a budget deal acceptable to 25 rich and poor countries for 2007-13.

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