The prospective member countries have asked to be allowed a seat in the Presidium and to have key documents and summaries of other items translated into their national languages (see European Report 2664). This issue continues to be a source of concern, and in fact an indication of the general problems surrounding the enlargement process. The idea of allowing a third member to be appointed to the Presidium seems be taken as read, off the record, which is reflected by the candidate countries' decision to undertake high-level consultations to determine how to pick their shared representative. However, the language question is another kettle of fish altogether. Nearly half of the Convention budget has been assigned in various guises to deal with the task of translating/interpreting into the current EU languages, so any idea of including other language would create a serious financial strain. This is the message that the Convention's Secretary-General, Sir John Kerr, has been trying to drive home to the candidate countries' heads of mission to the EU. In essence he has tried to explain that if they want the documents translated, apart from one or two exceptions, they would have to accept the costs and responsibilities themselves. This solution has naturally been given a poor reception, given the scale of the costs.Apart from these vexing enlargement-related issues, the Presidium will spend its March 14 session considering a line-up of proposed amendments to the draft rules of procedure. This draft is still being hotly disputed. The pressure is being piled on for the Convention to forgo such an instrument, given the struggle officials are facing trying to formulate the rules. Other parties point out that if no rules are available, this could affect the consistency of the Convention proceedings. This has to be seen against the background of all the specific interests of the delegations to the Convention. These interests are reflected through the multitude of often conflicting requests for changes to the rules of procedure. The Presidium will also be taking note of a briefing document from the Vice-president, Jean-Luc Dehaene on the organisation of the civil society forum, whose advisory role will be of paramount importance during the first stage of the proceedings.French contribution.President Jacques Chirac of France, who is in the running...

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