Deutsche Presse-Agentur |
Sep 13, 2010
Italy to hold out at least until Thursday on EU-South Korea veto
Brussels — European Union ministers meeting on Monday gave Italy until Thursday to decide whether it wants to confirm its veto on a free-trade agreement with South Korea, diplomats told the German Press Agency dpa.
Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, had said last week that Monday’s talks could ’hopefully’ close the deal.
But at the meeting, where Italy was represented by diplomats rather than a government minister, officials ’asked for some more days to reflect. The shared wish is that we will settle the issue before Thursday,’ an EU diplomat indicated.
The free-trade deal is expected to galvanize billions of euros in extra trade, but Italy’s main auto maker, Fiat, has been lobbying the Italian government to block the signature, arguing that the treaty would harm its business.
In order to backdown, Italy had asked for a one-year delay in the treaty’s implementation, but facing isolation, it lowered its request to six months at an EU trade ministers’ meeting on Friday.
Other member states, such as Britain, France and Germany, were reluctant to concede so much, leaving Italy to decide whether it could accept an even smaller postponement.
Diplomats say the issue could end up being tackled directly by EU leaders meeting on Thursday in Brussels, upsetting a carefully set agenda that was meant to focus on foreign policy, Pakistan and budget discipline.
EU and South Korean negotiators agreed the details of the deal in October 2009, but before it can be signed all EU states need to consent to it. Provided the Italian hurdle can be overcome, EU and South Korean leaders could sign it at a summit in Brussels on October 6.