European leaders were to gather yesterday for a summit clouded by the specter of terrorism after the Madrid terror blasts, but amid rising hopes of an accord to resume stalled talks on a historic constitution.
Leaders may set a date to restart the constitutional talks, which collapsed amid acrimony in December, with some suggesting a special summit to finalize a deal could even be held before EU-wide elections in mid-June.
"I don't think anybody seriously doubts that there will agreement to resume the formal talks," said one diplomat ahead of the two-day Brussels summit which was to start yesterday evening.
Kick-starting Europe's fledgling economic recovery, itself threatened by the fallout from the Spanish rail blasts and increased terror fears, is also high on the agenda of the meeting.
The Madrid massacre will cast a pall over the summit, at which EU leaders will approve a package of counter-terrorism measures agreed since the March 11 attacks, Europe's worst atrocity since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
The summit is expected to approve a package of measures to beef up defenses against al-Qaeda-style attacks, even if some now believe them to be inevitable.
But by a cruel irony the Madrid bombings removed a major obstacle to the constitutional deal: in elections after the attack Spanish voters ousted prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, who had blocked the proposals along with Poland.
Irish Prime Minister and summit host Bertie Ahern has circulated a three-page report to his EU counterparts on the constitution hopes, which they were to discuss over dinner yesterday evening.
The report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, confirms that the key sticking points remain voting weights and the composition of the European Commission after the EU's May 1 enlargement from 15 to 25 members.
But it concluded that "there is reason to believe that an overall agreement acceptable to all delegations is achievable if the necessary political will exists."
Talks on the constitution were launched more than two years ago to reform the EU's institutions after its expansion from 15 to 25 members on May 1, the biggest in the bloc's nearly half-century history.
But they failed in December after Spain and incoming EU heavyweight Poland refused to give up generous voting rights they secured four years ago, which gave them nearly as much influence as the EU's largest member, Germany.
Ireland was tasked with consulting among EU members and reporting back to this week's summit on prospects for the talks.
Dublin has now effectively recommended a resumption, and the question is now when the EU should aim to finalize a deal.
One diplomat said "the most sensible option" appears to be to tack the constitutional talks onto a scheduled June summit just after the European elections.
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of