In fulfilment of our mandate from December, the Irish Presidency submitted a report to colleagues on prospects for progress in the IGC ahead of last week's meeting of the European Council. This provided a basis for the discussion among Heads of State and Government over dinner on Thursday evening.
We set out in the report our assessment following the intensive process of consultation that has been under way since the start of the year. We said there continues to be consensus on the importance and value of the proposed constitutional treaty and there is a strong shared sense of the desirability of concluding negotiations as soon as possible. There is a widespread view that delay would make agreement more difficult to achieve. We also said we expected an overall solution covering all remaining points of difficulty could be found if there was sufficient political will and flexibility.
The Taoiseach outlined further our general approach to a number of the key outstanding issues in presenting the report at the meeting on Thursday. On the Commission, he expressed our view that the mutually valid requirements for effectiveness and legitimacy can be met through maintaining, for an extended period, a Commission comprising one national of each member state, moving thereafter to a reduced size.
On voting in the Council of Ministers, the Taoiseach set out our assessment that only a system based on double majority can command consensus and that it should be possible to reach an outcome that meets the concerns of all through some adjustment of the population and member state thresholds and through arrangements for confirmation of the transition from the current system. On the European Parliament, he said it should be possible to reach consensus on a modest increase in the minimum threshold of seats per member state. He did not ask colleagues to discuss these matters in detail. However, he asked partners to commit themselves to a firm timescale for agreement.
The Presidency report was warmly welcomed by partners. Following a positive and constructive discussion, the European Council reaffirmed its commitment to reach agreement and, on the basis of the Presidency's report, requested the Presidency to continue its consultations and as soon as appropriate to arrange for the resumption of formal negotiations in the IGC. It decided that agreement should be reached no later than the June European Council.
This is welcome and positive progress but we are far from complacent. Considerable work remains to be done if agreement on the constitutional treaty is to be reached under the Irish Presidency. If we are to resolve all outstanding issues, everyone will need to approach the task with a shared spirit of compromise and flexibility. It is not yet possible to say with certainty that agreement will be achieved by June. However, I assure the House that the Government will continue to do everything it can to facilitate and encourage a successful outcome.