December 18, 2005

EU still in crisis despite budget deal-Verheugen

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union remains in a crisis
despite Saturday's deal on its long-term budget and still needs
to settle crucial issues such as how far it should expand, a
Commission vice president was quoted on Sunday as saying.

"The EU crisis has not yet been overcome with this summit,"
European Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told the
newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

"The Austrian presidency must provide an answer to the big
questions. That includes in particular: how many members can
the EU cope with?" Verheugen said.

EU leaders agreed a long-term budget that put the troubled
bloc back on track on Saturday after Britain gave up part of
its cherished EU rebate to help boost aid to poor new, east
European members.

The leaders also agreed to make Macedonia a candidate for
membership but said its entry would have to await a broader
debate on how far the bloc should enlarge.

France had called for Macedonia's candidacy to be put on
hold to allow the 25-nation bloc to hold a debate on its

"One could say: we are in a pause for thought. But all we
see is the pause and not the thought," Verheugen said.

Austria takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency
next month and French President Jacques Chirac has said he
plans to make ambitious proposals for changes to EU

French and Dutch voters earlier this year rejected a
proposed EU constitution designed to modernize those
institutions after eastward enlargement.