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Sweden backing Germany in tough EU talks

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Sweden backing Germany in tough EU talks
08:43 CEST+02:00
As negotiations on the EU constitution continue in Luxembourg, Sweden is backing German plans for an agreement that preserves as much as possible of the draft constitution rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in referendums in 2005.

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to try to hammer out a deal. Germany, which holds the presidency of the 27-member bloc, has five days to find a solution that all members can approve. Each member state can veto an agreement.

Sweden is among the nineteen member states that want the new agreement to contain as much as possible of the original document. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy wants a slimmed down version of the constitution that his country could accept without the need for another referendum.

The constitution would hand over power from member states to the EU in a number of areas. Countries would lose vetoes in certain questions, the EU would get a 'foreign minister' and a permanent president to replace today's system of rotating national presidencies.

The Netherlands, the UK, the Czech Republic and Poland all want major changes to the agreement to reduce its scope. Sweden's Europe Minister Cecilia Malmström put a positive spin on negotiations, after emerging from Sunday night's session just before midnight.

"Poland is really tough, but nobody mentioned a veto," Malmström said.

Poland is opposing proposals that would reduce its weight in the EU's voting system. The Netherlands wants national parliaments to be able to block proposals from the European Commission. European Commission Vice President Margot Wallström, a Swede, rejected the idea.

"Handing out yellow cars can be OK, but if you give national parliaments a veto then you upset the balance in the EU."

Cecilia Malmström continued the footballing analogy.

"We don't want red cards - it would upset the balance," she said.

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