Germany wants new debate on EU constitution: minister

COPENHAGEN Fri Mar 9, 2012 3:26pm EST

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference at the end of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 2, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference at the end of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Vidal

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Germany wants to reignite a debate over creating an EU constitution to strengthen the bloc's ability to fight off financial troubles and counter-balance the rising influence of emerging economies, Germany's foreign minister said on Friday.

Guido Westerwelle said the bloc's Lisbon treaty, drafted after Dutch and French voters rejected a proposed constitution in 2005, was not enough to keep European decision-making structures effective.

"We have to open a new chapter in European politics," Westerwelle told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Copenhagen. "We need more efficient decision structures."

The German minister presented the idea to his counterparts at the Copenhagen meeting, during which they also discussed plans to run foreign policy more cheaply. He said discussions on the issue of a new constitution should continue in Berlin.

"I think we have to reopen the debate about a European constitution again," he said. "We have a good treaty, but we need a constitution ... There are new centers of power in the world."

German government sources said representatives of several EU member states would likely meet in the next few weeks for talks.

Driven by public frustration over financial bailouts for debt-stricken states, Germany has fought hard over the last year to amend the EU's Lisbon Treaty, a watered-down version of the 2005 constitution proposal.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had said in November that his country wanted to see changes to the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of 2012 in order to lay the foundation for a common fiscal policy in the bloc.

Germany argued that change was needed to enshrine tougher fiscal discipline and safeguard the bloc from further financial troubles.

For example, it wanted an amendment to incorporate tighter regional oversight of government spending and allow the European Court of Justice to strike down a member's laws if they violated fiscal discipline.

But Britain vetoed the plan in December in a row over safeguards for its financial sector.

(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Justyna Pawlak and Sebastian Moffett)

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