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Relief as EU leaders strike treaty deal

  International  -   POSTED: 2007/10/19 09:39

European Union leaders voiced relief at clinching a deal on Friday on a treaty to reform the 27-nation bloc's institutions, replacing a defunct constitution and ending a two-year crisis of confidence in Europe's future. "It's an important page in the history of Europe. Europe is now stronger, more confident and ready to face the challenges in the future," Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said on arriving to chair the second day of an EU summit.

After their post-midnight deal, leaders hugged each other and toasted with champagne a treaty that will be signed on December 13 in Lisbon. But for some, the celebration was tempered with pangs of regret for the constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

"At least it's a good thing it is over now. Now we need to continue to work to have it ratified in all countries -- it won't be easy," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, one of the most fervent backers of the constitutional project.

Asked to comment on the deal, French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a thumbs-up to reporters but said nothing before entering a second day of talks, set to cover economic issues.

Provided it is ratified by all 27 member states, the treaty will take effect in 2009 giving the EU a long-term president, a more powerful foreign policy chief, more democratic decision making and more say for the European and national parliaments.

Clinched after midnight, the accord ends a crisis opened by Dutch and French rejections that were votes of no confidence in an organization seen as remote and bureaucratic.


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