Friday, May 14, 2004

Red lines not settled

The second part of the Presidency discussion document (CIG 75) refers to the "scope of qualified majority voting", in which the Presidency notes "the desire of all partners to find a balanced compromise which responds to the general wish for further extension of qualified majority voting, while, at the same time, responding to the wishes of some who prefer to see unanimity retained in a number of sensitive areas".

On the table, flagged up for further discussion therefore, are the proposals issued in the previous presidency draft, covering diverse areas. The include judicial co-operation on criminal matters, the European public prosecutor’s office, QMV in the field of the common foreign and security policy, taxation, social security payments, all where an element of QMV is currently proposed.

But the presidency also proposes to allow discussion about introducing QMV on determining the level of the budget and "enhanced co-operation". It is asking for "Ministers’ views on how a balanced outcome can best be ensured", meaning of course that there is still a considerable divergence of views.

Many of these issues are directly in Blair’s "red line" territory, which means that his lines are far from secure, despite his posturing and claims that he is going to "toughen up" his stance. They are still very much open to debate, and must be thrashed out on 17/18 May, in less than three days time. And, from the tone of the presidency statements, it appears that the UK is very much in the minority.

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