BRUSSELS - The European Union came one step closer to having a new treaty on Tuesday (2 October) when legal experts from the 27 member states agreed its content.The draft has been "provisionally accepted" by the lawyers and "will be translated, revised and made available" by the end of the week, said Portugal, which is chairing the EU until the end of the year.Currently mainly in French, the text has to be translated into the other official languages of the EU, after which it will be further scrutinised by national experts.
In the last days, negotiations mainly focussed on Britain's opt-out from judicial co-operation and the extent to which the EU court should have jurisdiction over member states and their compliance with rules in this area.
The draft stays as close as possible to the outline agreed by EU leaders at a fraught summit in June.
But the technical agreement is just the first hurdle.The draft also has to be given the political go ahead, with EU leaders to discuss the text at the summit in Lisbon on 18 October.
EU diplomats are hoping that because it remains as close to the original outline as possible then there will be less chance of disagreement at the summit - but they admit this remains a possibility.
Among the most unpredictable states is Poland which is facing elections two days after the Lisbon summit.
It may push ahead with demands that a mechanism allowing countries to block an EU decision for up to two years be written into the treaty, instead of into a weaker protocol.
This is opposed by the vast majority of member states. However, both during the June EU summit and during recent discussions on creating an EU anti death penalty day, Poland has demonstrated that opposition from the majority of others is not a guarantee for it backing down.
The first political forum for possible complaints will be at a foreign ministers meeting just three days before the summit.But with an agreement on the treaty possibly in sight, the next major political focus will be ratification of the text for it to come into place before the European elections in mid-2009.
The original EU constitution failed at the referendum stage when it was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.So far Ireland is the only country certain to have a referendum – something that still remains open in Britain, where the EU is a highly-charged political issue, and in Denmark.
If it goes through, the treaty will introduce an EU foreign minister, a president of the bloc and give the European Parliament greater decision-making powers.