As the celebrations subside over the successful conclusion of the EU's biggest enlargement, another race against time starts in earnest this week. The Irish Presidency is re-launching the attempt to agree a Constitution for the European Union.

The Spring European Council underlined the importance of an agreement by mid-June.

But the chances of success have not improved since Silvio Berlusconi failed to win an accord by the end of Italy's Presidency of the EU last year.

It had been hoped that one of the obstacles that tripped up the Italian attempt would be less formidable - the argument over Spain's and Poland's votes in the Council. A new Government in Spain has indicated new readiness to accept a cutback on the generous rights it won under the Nice Treaty - and a new Government in Poland, now safely inside the EU, may also show more flexibility.

Exchanges between Presidency, Parliament and Commission this week suggest however that the delicate issue of how many votes for a majority decision may be up for discussion again.

Other questions that were thought to be resolved - notably how explicitly the Constitution should acknowledge Europe's religious heritage - have come back onto the agenda, at the demand of a strengthened Christian...

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