ONE year ago, when he presided over the final ministerial meeting of Britain's presidency of the European Union, Tony Blair suggested that a “period of reflection” was needed on the issue of the EU constitution which had been rejected earlier in 2005 by Denmark and France. Perhaps Mr Blair hoped that such reflection would lead to agreement that the EU could get along very well without a constitution, for which any British prime minister would have difficulty in getting public approval. In fact, however, the more the majority of EU member states have thought about a constitution the more they have liked the idea. This became apparent during the EU summit which ended in Brussels last evening. The Finnish prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, summarised the position as being that the majority of states want treaty reform and would like to retain as much of the substance of the existing text for a constitution as possible. One of the strong supporters of this position is Germany which takes the presidency from Finland on January 1; Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she wants to get the constitution back on track and yesterday the EU Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso publicly pledged his support to Germany in this aim. Spain has also been active on the issue, proposing two meetings early next year, one for the 18 countries that have ratified the text and another for those still to do so, in order to clarify outstanding issues.


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