Make or Break for Europe's Constitution

The challenge for the EU now is to refocus itself on the priorities of today and tomorrow. It needs to connect better with its own citizens, to renew their support by showing that Europeans working together can foster growth and jobs, fight international crime, and secure a clean environment. The Union needs to play a more active role in the wider world, not in pursuit of selfish interests, but in promoting the universal values on which it is founded.

Most of all, the enlarged Union needs a constitutional and institutional framework that fits its ambitions. For thirty months, governments and parliamentarians have been working on a new constitution for Europe. An exceptional draft was prepared by the convention chaired by former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. It is the task of national governments - of me and my colleagues in the European Council - to finish the job. We meet in Brussels this week, and our overriding priority is to reach agreement on the constitution.

Consensus on most of the draft has existed for some time. There is no dispute about the EU's values and objectives, about inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, or about simplifying legislative processes. These are all major advances. But national governments inevitably have a particular interest in the powers of EU institutions in such key areas as foreign policy, criminal law, and taxation.

These are the issues on which final agreement now needs to be reached. Through months of bilateral contact and negotiation among ministers, we have succeeded in whittling down the outstanding issues to a point where a fair and balanced overall package is achievable.