Richard North, 07/05/2004  

Sources: Eupolitix, AFP, EU Observer and others

After growing unease about the “closed door” negotiations on the constitution, and growing suspicions of a stitch-up, Bertie Ahern has come back indignantly denying that the constitution will be carved out by euro technocrats. He has clearly been stung by criticisms about the “in camera” meetings between officials last Monday.

All the same, suspicions are hardly dispelled by new that the officials have prepared a highly technical 130-page “working document” on amendments to the constitution. To view this document, click here. (A more detailed analysis will be produced on this Blog later today).

Ahern is still claiming that, “Unlike its predecessors” this treaty “is not a technical agreement”. He hopes “people see it in that light”. Irish officials are stressing that the convention’s draft remains “largely, nine tenths, intact”.

The parties certainly seem to be investing a great deal in the solution, with Poland's prime minister designate, Marek Belka, saying he hopes to reach agreement on a key sticking points before the June summit, although the key details in the 130-page dossier will have to be agreed at the foreign ministers meeting on 17-18 May.

However, EU Observer reports that the list of problems that still have to be solved appears to be growing bigger, and the killer issue – voting rights – has yet to be tackled. Without agreement on that, there will be no constitution, as Irish officials continue to emphasise, with their oft-repeated mantra, "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

One thing, for sure, the deal will not be made in smoke-filled rooms. Since 1 May, smoking has been banned in EU buildings.

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