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Poland appears unwilling to accept a German-led deal to revive the EU's stalled constitution and may prefer to wait until after Germany's presidency of the bloc to decide the charter's future, Austria's chancellor said.
One gets the impression that the Polish leadership, under the Kaczynski brothers, is simply unwilling to allow the Germans a victory in reviving the reforms," Alfred Gusenbauer told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily after meeting the Polish leaders on Monday.
"They sharply criticized the German presidency."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to unveil a "road map" next week for relaunching the EU constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters two years ago.
Poland, which wants changes to the voting rules within the 27-nation bloc, is proving the biggest obstacle to her drive.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to meet the Polish leadership on Thursday to try to convince them to drop their opposition to a new treaty before a June 21-22 summit in Brussels.
Merkel, who is due to give a speech in parliament on Thursday on her plans for the summit, is expected to meet Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Saturday north of Berlin in a last-ditch effort to convince Warsaw to compromise.
Gusenbauer said he believed the summit could fail because of the Poles, whose demands to tweak the voting system are opposed by every EU member state except the Czech Republic, which has offered Warsaw half-hearted support.
Asked if the Polish government thought its interests would be best served by stalling on the treaty until the German presidency ends at the end of this month, Gusenbauer replied: "That is what it sounded like to me."
Separately, European Parliament speaker Hans-Gert Poettering warned Poland against vetoing a deal in Brussels.
"Those that show no solidarity with the European community will isolate themselves," he said in an interview with Germany's Passauer Neue Presse daily.
Interesting analysis, except the article fails to mention that Spain and Italy are part of the Poland-led coalition. So much for fair and balanced reporting.
"Those that show no solidarity with the European community will isolate themselves,"
Is that the position of the UK in that case? Isolated?
Brown under pressure over EU treaty
By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:45am BST 12/06/2007
The road to Number 10
Gordon Brown was under mounting pressure yesterday from both his own party and the Conservatives to declare his hand over Europe.
In one of his last acts as Prime Minister, Tony Blair will next week lead British negotiations on German attempts to revive aspects of the controversial EU constitution.
Nicolas Sarkozy declared that he and Tony Blair, 'agreed on what might be the framework for a simplified treaty'
Even though he will be succeeded by Mr Brown just a few days later, Mr Blair will not be accompanied by the Chancellor at the crucial EU summit in Germany.
Mr Blair already faces accusations of trying to stitch up a deal with Nicolas Sarkozy, the new French president, at last week's G8 meeting in Germany.
Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, told MPs that no real negotiations on the proposed new treaty had taken place at the summit but Mr Sarkozy declared: "Tony Blair and I have just agreed on what might be the framework for a simplified treaty. That is quite something."
The treaty is expected to resurrect many of the controversial aspects of the EU constitution that was rejected by Dutch and French voters in referendums. Proposals for a new permanent EU president are likely to be revived, as well as voting arrangements that could reduce Britain's power to block Brussels' proposals.
Mr Blair is insisting that, although he originally promised a referendum on the constitution, the revised treaty does not need to be put directly to British voters.
The Chancellor's spokesman insisted that Mr Brown and Mr Blair were agreed on the approach for the summit but Mr Brown was reported to have reserved the right to block any deal that involved surrendering more powers to Brussels.
David Cameron, the Tory leader, urged the prime minister-in-waiting to show his hand. He said: "Any treaty that is about the transfer of powers to the EU must be put to the country in a referendum."
Tory sources said they would turning up the heat on Mr Brown every day between now and the EU summit.
Separately, Frank Field, the former Labour minister, signalled that the new EU treaty would be the first big test of Mr Brown's premiership.
He said promising a referendum was one of most popular things Mr Blair did and going back on that is "against all the rhetoric of a government that says it wants to reconnect with a disillusioned electorate".
I wonder if this "simplified" treaty is like many other blair government simplified initiatives .....I sense that Poland's isolation will be short lived once Brown takes over.
Brown is even more undiplomatic than Bliar
Shrek was modelled on him
Multiple answers to Europe's maths problem
By Wolfgang Munchau
Published: June 18 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 18 2007 03:00
What is a fair voting system for the European Union? It looks as though, thanks to Poland, European leaders will be forced to debate this difficult question at their summit this week.
Since the simplified draft treaty is substantively identical to the old and rejected constitution - minus some cosmetics - the voting system proposed is going to be the same one: passage of legislation requires a coalition of countries representing at least 55 per cent of the member states and 65 per cent of the population. The Poles have threatened a veto unless the second of those two numbers is based on the square root of the population size - to reduce Germany's influence. It sounds arbitrary, but the Poles have a point. Mathematics is on the side of Poland.
To an uninitiated observer, this does not appear immediately obvious. Does it not seem fair that the voting power of a country in an international organisation should be proportional to its population size? The answer is no. In fact, it is totally unfair. The reason is that effective voting power in multi-nation settings such as the EU depends not on voting size but on the ability to form winning coalitions. Large countries are better placed than their relative population size would suggest.
The original, six-member Community is a good example of this counter-intuitive idea. Germany, France and Italy each had four votes in the council of ministers, the Netherlands and Belgium had two and Luxembourg one vote. Germany then had more than 100 times the population of Luxembourg, yet only four times the number of votes.
Intuition might suggest that tiny Luxembourg was surely over-represented. In truth, the opposite was the case. The threshold for a majority was set at 12 votes. Since every member except Luxembourg had an even number of votes, Luxembourg was never in a position to cast a make-or-break vote. Despite being numerically over-represented, Luxembourg in effect had zero voting power. That would have been different if, for example, an odd number had been chosen as the threshold.
So how do you measure effective voting power? Lionel Penrose, the British mathematician and psychiatrist who developed a theory of voting power in the 1940s, concluded that votes in international organisations should be based on the square root of the population. This is where the Poles got their idea. In the 1960s, John Banzhaf, a US attorney, established an index to measure a country's voting power. There are two versions of the Banzhaf index. The absolute Banzhaf index measures the ability of a country to cast the decisive vote in a winning coalition as a proportion of all coalitions in which that country takes part. In the case of the pre-1973 EU, the absolute Banzhaf index for Luxembourg was precisely zero. For Germany it was 24 per cent. Germany, not Luxembourg, was over-represented.
What about the EU today? With 27 members, there are a total of 133m possible coalitions. The economists Richard Baldwin and Mika Widgrén have calculated the Banzhaf indices for each member state, both under the current regime, established by the treaty of Nice and in force since 2004, and the constitution*. The results clearly support the Polish case. Germany's absolute Banzhaf index shoots up from about 5 per cent to more than 15 per cent (it would have gone up to 30 per cent under the original draft). The trouble is that everyone's absolute Banzhaf index also goes up, including Poland's. How could that be?
The reason is that the constitution dramatically improves the probability of legislation being passed. Mathematically, the passage probability can be defined as the ratio of "winning" coalitions to all coalitions. In the 15-member EU, this ratio was 8 per cent (this means that 8 per cent of all possible coalitions produce a Yes vote). Under the Nice rules it has fallen to 3 per cent and will approach zero as the EU expands further. This is why the present voting system needs to be fixed.
The constitutional treaty raises this ratio to 13 per cent. But as the overall passage probability rises, so does a country's ability to cast a pivotal vote. This explains why the absolute Banzhaf index rises for everybody, including Poland. The Polish problem is that Germany's influence would be enormous in relative terms.
Is Poland's square root solution the only alternative? Of course not. EU leaders could, for example, raise the threshold for population size and number of countries from their 55 and 65 per cent respectively or introduce some complicated new formula - perhaps with a square root in it. There is a quite a bit a leeway left without creating Nice-style gridlock. Professors Baldwin and Widgrén propose another simple and effective solution: drop the voting rules of
the constitution and just repair the Nice rules by reducing some of the high thresholds.
The Poles have put their finger on an important issue, though their own answer is not as compelling as they think. If and when EU leaders set out to amend the rules, they should heed the lessons of the past. Any new system needs to fulfil two parallel goals: it needs to make the voting system more effective and it needs to be fair. The Nice system is fair and ineffective. The constitution is effective but unfair.
If they get this wrong again, they will be back at the negotiating table not too long from now. But if they get it right, they will have managed to create the one and only substantive change from the original treaty.
Germans to offer Polish delay in introducing new voting system?
Germany could offer Poland a delay in introducing a new voting system as a last-minute gambit to clinch a deal. "If I were the Germans, I would offer to postpone the switch for a couple of years, say to 2011, and accept 2013 at the very end as a compromise," one diplomat involved in the negotiations said. Any such offer would only be made in the final hours of the summit set for Thursday and Friday.
The UK meanwhile is totally isolated and willing to capitulate on virtually every point.