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EU: Berlusconi Says Agreement On Constitution May Be Postponed

Brussels, 12 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today warned that agreement between European Union leaders on the bloc's first constitution may have to be postoned until next year. "If we do not reach an agreement [on the constitutional treaty], then the succesive [EU] Presidency, which will be the Irish presidency, will not need to reopen all the issues, but will only need to address those points on which agreement was not reached, which at the moment seems to be essentially only two issues: the composition of the [European] Commission and the system of votin," Berlusconi said.

The key sticking point is the refusal by Poland and Spain to accept changes in voting powers sought by France and Germany.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that if the summit which opened today in Brussels fails to adopt a constitution, further negotiations could continue in a less tense atmosphere.

A spokesman for Polish Prime Minister Lezszek Miller said that Poland would only use a veto on the matter "as a last resort."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said he is ready to study new proposals on the issue, but has not seen any yet.

Earlier today, EU leaders agreed on a defense deal that will boost the bloc's ability to mount military operations.