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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Merkel Makes Constitution a Priority

STRASBOURG, France -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday outlined an ambitious program for her country's six-month European Union presidency, saying the bloc must set a timetable for adopting an EU constitution and revive talks on a global trade deal, as Berlin prepares to play its strongest diplomatic role in years.

Expectations are high that the EU's richest and most populous nation -- which has also taken over the chairmanship of the Group of Eight -- will resolve the fate of the stalled EU charter.

Merkel, who has already won praise for her diplomatic efforts on Middle East peace and breaking an EU budget deadlock, will be watched closely by people seeking a way forward for the sputtering European project.

But there are questions about how much she will be able to accomplish in a year that will see leadership changes in key EU nations France and Britain.

Addressing the European Parliament, Merkel said she would consult all 27 EU nations to hear their reservations about the landmark treaty -- which was ratified by 18 states but rejected in Dutch and French referendums in 2005 -- and to determine which parts could be rescued to form the basis of a new document.

"The reflection pause is over. By June, we must reach a decision on what to do with the constitution," she told EU lawmakers during her first appearance at the EU assembly. "It is in the interest of Europe to end this process successfully by the next European elections in 2009."

Germany wants to save as much as possible of the draft text, which was designed to accelerate policy making and give the EU, now with 489 million people, more visibility on the world stage by creating the posts of EU president and foreign minister.

"We need a foreign minister for Europe. That's enough of a reason to adopt a constitutional treaty," Merkel told the parliament. "We must give a soul to Europe; we have to find Europe's soul. Any failure could be a historic failure."