Insularity may be covered in the European Union's new constitutional treaty, which is expected to be ready by early 2004, according to Alvaro Rodríguez Bereijo. He represents the Spanish Prime Minister in the European Convention and is a former president of the Spanish Constitutional Court. He gave a lecture in Palma last night on The Future of the EU: A Constitutional Challenge. He explained that insularity was not on the Convention's agenda, but would have to be taken into consideration when the role of regions in Europe was defined. The Balearic government has for a long time been demanding central government aid to paliate the high costs caused by being an island region, and in recent years has been looking to the EU for help. Rodríguez Bereijo said that the European Union would continue to be a union of member states, but would recognise their plurality and diversity. This will give an important role to regions, and among them, island regions. Several countries, including Spain, have been worried about how expanding the EU to take in Eastern European countries will affect structural and cohesion funds and Rodríguez Bereijo said that the structural funds will remain as they are until next year, while the cohesion funds will not be touched until 2006. In the future, he said, Europe will have to reconsider not only reform of its institutions, but the problem of how to finance the enlarged EU. This will be a very difficult and complicated task for the Convention, he said.

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