Rome, 4 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of 28 countries today opened a conference in Rome to discuss a draft of the first-ever constitution of the European Union. The EU's 15 current members and 10 countries due to join the EU next year aim to narrow differences over the draft. Representatives of prospective candidates Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey are also attending.
At the heart of the discussions are the issues of the exercise of power within the EU.
The talks are meant to end in December. If successful, they will result in a constitution to govern the EU. But there are several areas of dispute, and the talks are expected to be very difficult and protracted.
Meanwhile, antiglobalization protesters and Italian police clashed near the site of today's EU summit in Rome.
Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Italian government's main building earlier today but were forced back by police. More than 9,000 police officers were deployed in Rome to maintain order during the summit.
Special trains bringing more protesters are expected to arrive by early afternoon. Italian and European trade unions have called for a large demonstration at the Piazza della Republica in Rome's city center that the unions say will involve tens of thousands of people.