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Ireland has picked up the challenge of completing the European Union's stalled talks on a new Constitution - and has set itself a tight deadline. This is a courageous move by the EU Presidency.

It is going to be no easy task to resolve all the issues that were left on the table by the failure of the Italian Presidency at the end of last year. Spain's new flexibility over its earlier claims on voting rights should help defuse one of the crucial issues; but other formidable problems remain including the "red lines" on the taxation, defence and foreign policy issues that the UK again insisted on at this week's Summit of EU leaders.

If Ireland succeeds in its plan of winning agreement from 25 full Member States by the June Summit, it will be entitled to claim the new treaty as its own - although as an ebullient Bertie Ahern, President of the European Council, commented at the end of this week's summit: "I don't care what it's called".

It's just as well the EU has shown it has not entirely lost the will to act rapidly. Much of the rest of the Summit's outcome demonstrated EU leaders' mastery of the art...

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