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Published:May 5th, 2007 07:26 EST

Italian Americans, Prodi keen to push EU reform ahead

By SOP newswire

LISBON (ANSA) - Italian Premier Romano Prodi said on Wednesday that overcoming the impasse in efforts to agree a European Constitution could require some member nations to move ahead alone.

Addressing the Portuguese parliament on the future of Europe, Prodi noted that two of the key developments in the EU's history - the euro and the Schengen agreement - had been implemented by certain members only.

"We don't necessarily have to all move forward together, at the same speed. I would like this to happen, but I realise it's not always possible," the former EC president said.

European Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso is planning an informal summit in Sintra, Portugal, later this month to talk about the future of the EU Constitution.

Italy is expected to attend this meeting, along with the new French president, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Portuguese Premier Jose Socrates, who takes over the EU duty presidency from Merkel in July.

EU institutional reform is also expected to be high on the agenda at the leaders' summit which will close the German EU presidency in June.

In the talks ahead it will be important to conserve "the spirit" as well as much of the substance of the constitutional treaty agreed by EU governments in 2004, Prodi said.

Only a treaty which extends majority voting to as many situations as possible will allow Europe to play an effective role on the world stage and also organise its internal government efficiently, he continued.

"Italy is not prepared to subscribe to any old compromise. For us the rights of citizens from countries which have approved the treaty must have the same value as the citizens of countries that haven't".

The process of ratifying the Constitution practically ground to a halt in 2005 when French and Dutch voters opted against adopting it in referenda.

In a bid to get the process back on track again, EU members signed the Berlin Declaration in March. While not mentioning the treaty by name, it talks about aiming for a "renewed common basis" for the Union in time for the European Parliament elections in 2009.

FRENCH VOTE WILL 'STIMULATE' PROGRESS.

Referring to the big question mark posed by French voters, Prodi told the Portuguese parliament that the outcome of Sunday's second-round presidential elections would not be a decisive factor for the Constitution.

The two candidates for the presidency have both talked about the EU in the run-up to the vote.

Rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy is in favour of a lighter constitution that could be ratified by parliament. Socialist Segolene Royal says she would keep the the treaty more-or-less as it is now but add a section on social policy. Then she would put it to a second referendum.

"Whatever the result, the French president cannot fail to be an element which stimulates progress for Europe," Prodi said.

So far, 16 countries, including Italy, have completed ratification of the constitutional treaty, two of them by referendum. Two are close to ratifying it. After France and Netherlands rejected it, seven countries have put the ratification process on hold.

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