Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

29 oktober genoemd als datum voor ondertekening Europese Grondwet (en)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday are set to agree that the Constitution be signed in Rome at the end of October.

Diplomatic sources have told the EUobserver that 29 October is the date most likely to be chosen after consultation with most of the 25 member states.

The date is some three weeks earlier Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi previous suggestion.

Mr Berlusconi's unilateral comments that it should be 20 November caused irritation in the Dutch EU presidency which has the lead on the issue.

An EU diplomat said that 20 November did not suit everyone as "not all partners were consulted".

The October date also means that it takes place before the current mandate of the European Commission runs out giving Commission chief Romano Prodi, arch rival of Mr Berlusconi, a last EU photo opportunity while in office.

Referendum talks

But this is not the only aspect of the Constitution that will be dealt with on Monday. Foreign ministers are also to have an initial discussion on trying to communicate Europe more effectively to its citizens.

Part of this debate will be devoted to how to sell the European Constitution to the people so that it will not be rejected in a referendum.

EU leaders touched on this topic when they met in Brussels at the end of June.

Getting the Constitution through all 25 member states is the next big headache facing the bloc as it is likely one or more countries will say no.

One of the main ideas being floated is to bring the dates for referendums closer together in time so the whole ratification process is not spread out over a long two-year period.

The first of the referendums can start 50 days after signature of the treaty with Spain and the Netherlands likely to be among the first countries putting the question to their citizens.

The Constitution is not set to come into force until 2007 at the earliest.

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