New York, 25 September 2003 - " The remarks one sometimes hears about the "smaller" countries wanting to unwrap the Convention package are an exaggeration", Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner emphasised in reference to the meeting of 19 foreign ministers of smaller EU member states which was held on 23 September on the fringes of the UN General Assembly following a joint initiative by Austria and Finland.
"The talks were rather aimed at sending out a signal to the Italian council presidency that any member state must have a chance within the framework of the intergovernmental conference to pose questions that it considers essential. Therefore there were consultations on the working method and mandate of the intergovernmental conference starting on 4 October", said the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The meeting was primarily intended to harmonise those issues for which the Convention eventually ran out of time, in order to attain a true balance.
"After all, what we want is to create an EU Constitution. This constitution is meant to hold for far longer than the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, both of which lasted only 2 to 3 years. We need to take the time necessary for this", the Foreign Minister further pointed out.
Ferrero-Waldner stressed that the "smaller" countries were not a formal group as such but rather a sort of "open club" with a varying membership. The 19 countries have a lot in common, but not necessarily everything. The following countries were represented at the meeting on 23 September: Austria, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta.