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Berlusconi Launches Last-Ditch Effort to Break EU Deadlock Over Voting Rights - 2003-12-13

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels are scheduled to hear a last-ditch proposal by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that is aimed at keeping talks on a new EU constitution from failing. Mr. Berlusconi is trying to break a deadlock over how many votes each member state should have in the EU decision-making process.

The issue of voting rights when the European Union expands from 15 to 25 members next year threatens to block approval of the EU constitution.

France and Germany support the draft constitution's provision that decisions could be made by a simple majority of EU nations if they represent 60 percent of the union's population.

Spain and Poland are insisting on maintaining a formula approved three-years ago that would give them virtual parity with more populous EU countries. France and Germany say that formula is unfair.

Mr. Berlusconi, who is chairing the two-day summit, says he is proposing four alternative voting formulas in an effort to break the impasse. But he would not describe them to reporters.

Few leaders from current and future EU members are optimistic that the dispute can be settled, and Mr. Berlusconi says no deal is better than a bad deal. If the summit fails over the voting rights issue, diplomats say it would be a huge blow to EU credibility.