STRASBOURG, France, Jan 17 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Wednesday that failure to revive the European Union's constitution would be a "historic mistake" that would leave the bloc divided and mired in bureaucracy.
Efforts to overhaul Brussels' unwieldy structures have been in limbo since French and Dutch voters rejected the charter designed to streamline decision-making in 2005.
"A lumbering bureaucratic, divided Europe will not solve the challenges it faces, be they in foreign and security policy, climate and energy, European research, cutting red tape or in dealing with enlargement and with our neighbours," she said.
Appealing for the EU to deepen ties with the United States and Russia, and make its influence felt from the Balkans to the Middle East and Africa, Merkel said it was time the EU had its own foreign minister -- a key provision of the constitution.
Merkel made it clear her scepticism about more referendums, rejecting a call for a pan-European plebiscite. The treaty can only enter into force if all 27 member states ratify it.
Behind the scenes, diplomats say Germany is sounding out its partners on what would have to be removed from the text ratified so far by 18 member states to enable the remaining countries to endorse it, if possible without referendums.
Critics of the charter slammed Merkel's approach as undemocratic in the debate that followed her speech.
"The EU's political establishment is now going full steam ahead to thrust the constitution upon us," eurosceptical British Conservative Neil Parish said. "If the leaders of the EU attempt to airbrush out the wishes of the French and Dutch voters, they risk destroying the very institutions they revere."
Merkel, a Christian Democrat, is ostensibly on the side of the angels. She is, though, clearly of the opinion that the people should be bypassed for the greater good. It's dangerous sentiment when the 'greater good' is the current EU run from Brussels. It may be that someday the nation-state may be superseded as the guardian of the rights of citizens but this EU is not it.