“Today is a very important day for the European Union and the course of European integration. The draft Constitution presented by European Convention President Valery Giscard d’Estaing has been approved as the basic text for the Intergovernmental Conference which will prepare the final Treaty, the final Constitution of the EU,” the President of the European Council, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told reporters on Friday.
Announcing the adoption of the draft Constitution, Simitis stressed that it had been the result of dialogue and work over a period of 16 months, through a process in which civil society had also participated.
“Despite the doubts and uncertainty, despite the questions, the task has been accomplished, it is a good result, it is a compromise,” Simitis said.
“It is not a compromise, it is a synthesis,” Convention President Valery Giscard d’Estaing stated. After reading out the reference to Thucydides in the preamble of the draft Constitution, d’Estaing said that the discussion had been held in a very “warm atmosphere”.
“It was a moving moment, a moment of European happiness,” d’Estaing said, stressing that all the Member States “with a few exceptions” agreed to the draft. He also expressed the hope that the final elaboration of the text would be accomplished at a rapid pace “because the European citizens are waiting for their Constitution”.
European Commission President Romano Prodi described the adoption of the draft Constitution as “a giant leap forward”. Although on certain points the Convention did not realise its aspirations, he added, “it has produced a body of work which can serve as a basis and lay the foundations for the constitutional structure of the EU for many years”.
Replying to a question on the disagreements which arose between d’Estaing and Prodi, Simitis observed that “opposing views are a prerequisite for any creation”, while Prodi said that “this was the dialectic followed, in order to tackle in a constructive manner the most controversial issues” for which the Commission President said he was grateful.
According to the decisions of the Thessaloniki European Council, the sessions of the Convention must be concluded by 15 July and the Intergovernmental Conference convened in October, 2003, in order to finish its work “at the earliest” and at all events before European elections in 2004.