26.03.2003 - 09:49 CET

Finish Convention work by June, says Rome

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FRANCO FRATTINI - Italian foreign minister would like to enhance EU-Russian relations and repair transatlantic relations during Italian EU presidency, starting 1 July. (Photo: European Commission)
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The Italian government has made calls for the European Convention to finalise the bulk of its work, before Rome takes over the EU Presidency in July. Rome wants the Convention to wrap up its work and to allow for a short "cooling down" period before the intergovernmental conference (IGC) is launched in the autumn.

"In this way the IGC would be launched without the main institutional differences still to be overcome," Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini said when visiting Brussels on Tuesday.

The Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi mentioned last week the date of June 30 for the presentation of a report on the outcome of the Convention - a week after the summit marking the end of the Greek Presidency - but a final decision on this matter has not been taken yet.

"An agreement on the new treaty should be reached by the end of this year," Mr Frattini said, mentioning the need for citizens to be aware of the new constitutional architecture of the EU before they vote in the European Parliament elections in June 2004.

"If we don't have adequate time, we would be weakening transparency and legitimacy. We want a union of states and peoples," Mr Frattini said.

But Giscard wants more time
Yet the Italian foreign affairs minister warned against too large a gap between the end of the Convention and the beginning of the IGC. "A lengthy cooling off period could drain the final product of the Convention from its essence," he warned.

Greece - currently holding the presidency - has also urged the Convention to finish its work on time, by June.

These statements will not be received well by the Convention Chairman Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who would prefer more ti me to be given on controversial issues of future institutional make-up and common foreign and security policy.

Italian Presidency priorities unveiled
Franco Frattini also unveiled the priorities which will be given by Italy when it takes over the EU lead from July.

On the agenda will be the Western Balkans, particularly after the EU expressed the wish that one day these countries become EU members.

Enhancing of EU-Russia relations will also be given priority, also due to the special relationship that exists between Italy and Russia.

Besides being described last week as a "priveleged neighbour" by Mr Frattini, he again repeated that Russia "should be integrated within the European structures". He had also proposed that Russia should participate in informal EU ambassadors meetings during the Italian Presidency.

Moreover, Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi had also expressed the wish that Russia should become an EU member.

Italy wants transatlantic relations back on the track
Other items on the agenda will be the reinforcement of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), particularly after EU states had shown divided views over the Iraq issue, and putting back on track the transatlantic relations, where Italy sees the EU as a balancing power to the currently enjoyed power of the US.

Also for the Italian Presidency will be the relaunch of the Euro-Mediterranean process launched in Barcelona in 1995. The aim of this process was to create an area of shared prosperity through the progressive establishment of a free-trade area between the EU and its Partners and among the 12 Mediterranean Partners themselves.

"This process had an ambitious aim, but the overall results have not been filled with expectations," Mr Frattini said.

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Written by Sharon Spiteri

Edited by Lisbeth Kirk

QUESTION: Who controls the government of Italy? ROME! And who is Rome controlled by? THE VATICAN!

If you have been watching the EU political movements over the last few decades you would have seen clearly it is a testing ground for a one world government that will eventually be headquarted in Jerusalem and run by the Roman Catholic Vatican. Just as prophhecy declared!

The Presents of God ministry