EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about a possible EU Treaty change was published by EurActiv on 26th October 2010.

Germany and France face an uphill battle to secure backing for a change to the European Union’s fundamental treaty, EU foreign ministers indicated yesterday (25 October) after lengthy talks.

Preparing the ground for an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels this week (28-29 October), when treaty change will be discussed, foreign ministers said opinion was sharply divided over the proposal, despite strong German and French backing.

Germany wants to change the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which came into force last December after eight years of negotiation, to make sure it includes a permanent system for handling financial crises, such as another Greek-style debt collapse.

France backs the initiative, but many others in the 27-country EU are sceptical about the benefits and concerned about the fallout from reopening a treaty whose ushering into law caused deep division and political uncertainty.

“The drama became clear to everybody,” Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger told reporters yesterday, referring to a discussion on treaty change over the weekend.

“It underlines the need to find a solution – but the result was not the solution ‘big treaty change’.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, acknowledged the extent of division over the issue but said there was no way to have more financial stability without changing the treaty.

“Talks will continue now day and night in order to find common ground [before] Thursday,” he told reporters.

France appears convinced that changing the treaty will be possible and its European affairs minister, Pierre Lellouche, described it as a necessary historical step.

“There is a true will from France and Germany to save our common currency,” he said, acknowledging that treaty change was “hard to accept” for some countries.

Germany has been pushing treaty change for months, but the idea only gained traction last week after a deal was struck in which Berlin won support for the plan in exchange for backing Paris on a softening of new EU budget rules.

Berlin wants a permanent crisis resolution mechanism because the current system, created in May to handle the fallout from the Greek debt crisis, runs out in 2013, is taxpayer-funded and is legally ambiguous under the current Lisbon Treaty.

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