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Spain to compromise on EU voting rights-newspaper
( 2003-10-14 22:49) (Agencies)

Spain favours a compromise to end a row over voting rights in an enlarged European Union, a Spanish newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Spain and Poland object strongly to a simplified voting system proposed in a draft European constitution currently under discussion in Rome which would reduce their power in Brussels.

El Pais newspaper said Spain would back an alternative to the draft which would give Madrid more clout to block EU decisions, although it would still be a climbdown for Spain compared to the Nice treaty agreed in 2000.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman denied the report, insisting that the agreement made in Nice, which gave Spain nearly equal voting rights to its more populous partners, is the only one that holds.

"What is valid is the Nice agreement, and there has been no mandate to change that," the spokesman said.

"Spain isn't obliged to do anything. Spain isn't the country that has to suggest an alternative, it has to be the countries that want a change."

EU governments opened talks in Rome earlier this month on a new treaty to govern the bloc before it grows from 15 to 25 members next May.

Spain and Poland's campaign against the proposed voting system has irked many of members which want the draft constitution left largely intact.

El Pais said Spain would not propose the compromise formally for now, but it quoted an official source as saying: "It will end up being presented at the last minute of the Inter-Governmental Conference" called to approve the constitution.

El Pais said Spain looked favourably on an alternative under which most EU issues would have to be approved by a majority of countries representing at least 66 percent of the EU population, rather than 60 percent as proposed in the current draft.

This would make it easier for smaller members such as Spain to achieve a veto, because they would need to garner just 34 percent support.

Under the system proposed at present, it would be virtually impossible for Spain to block a decision seen as harmful to its interests without the support of one or two "big" countries.

That is now more important since Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar fell out with Germany and France, the traditional EU power brokers, over the Iraq war.

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