WARSAW. JUNE 22. INTERFAX C.NTRAL EUROPE - European Union leaders insisted late Thursday that a compromise could be reached on the voting system, despite Poland's refusal to accept the proposal to allocate each country votes in proportion to population.
"Everyone set out their opening positions," European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso told a televised press conference in Brussels. "We must not admit the possibility of failure."
Poland has threatened to veto the intergovernmental conference to revive the EU constitution, comatose since its rejection by Dutch and French voters in 2005, which has set off a period of frantic diplomacy. Polish President Lech Kaczynski cancelled a planned press conference, as a meeting with Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nikolas Sarkozy of France, dragged on late into the night.
Germany's influence on the negotiations did not go unnoticed by Poland.
"It is known the key partner is the presidency," that is Germany, whose six-month period holding the EU's rotating presidency is coming to an end, Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga said at another televised press conference. "At the moment, the presentation of respective positions is in progress, the room for compromise is being delineated, although I would like to stress yet again that Poland has already compromised."
The current proposal, which nearly all EU countries say has been approved at the time the original constitutional treaty was negotiated, would drastically cut the number of votes Poland holds on the European Union Council. Warsaw has, therefore, called for voting weights to be up for discussion during the intergovernmental conference to agree on a slimmed-down treaty. Nearly all the member states have spoken out against this idea.
"[The Poles] have presented their objections, but have also expressed the will to reach agreement," Chancellor Merkel said.
According to reports, Warsaw has suggested that the current system, under which it has nearly as many votes as Germany, with population more than twice the size, be preserved until 2020. At this time the "double majority" system would come into force.
Under system, the council's decisions would require the approval of at least 55% of member states (with current membership - 15 countries) representing no less than 65% of the EU's population. To avoid giving too much clout to the union's biggest countries, the blocking minority would have to consist of at least four member states. If adopted and ratified in line with the timeline presented by the German presidency of the EU, the double-majority system would enter into force in 2009.
Poland objected, proposing a more-complex system, whereby each country's votes would be allocated in proportion to the square root of population. Decisions would then be taken by a straight majority of member states, holding at least 62% of the votes.