PositionConstitutional conventions

oSorry to keep you waitingo, said European Council President Bertie Ahern, as he announced to the outside world late on Friday that EU leaders had agreed on a Constitutional Treaty.

He was apologising for appearing with the text just minutes before midnight. But his apology could refer to the six months since the EU Summit last December failed to reach agreement on the Treaty. It could cover the years since the Convention came into being to generate the EU's first Constitution and maybe even the half-century since the European Community came into being.

EU leaders have managed to overcome deep - and deeplyfelt - divergences to arrive at a compromise aimed at really improving the EU.

There will be debate over the merits and demerits of the details of the text, particularly since the agreement among political leaders now has to win assent from the Member States and in many cases the citizens of the Member States, in public referendums.

But although most of the recent attention has been focused on acrimonious disputes over red lines, qualified majorities, or the number of Commissioners, the reality is that much of the content relates to fundamental EU values and objectives: Dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, rule of law, and the powers that the people of Europe have the right to.

And what the Summit has...

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