Proposal for a Constitutional Treaty and IGC
Speech to Ukrainian Parliament - October 1st 2003
The IGC will convene this week to discus the document of the draft EU Constitution which has taken 16 months to prepare and has its origins in mandate from the December 2001 Laeken summit which set-up the Convention to prepare this and was presented by the Convention President Valery Giscard d’Estaing in June at the Thessaloniki summit.
The convention consisted of 105 members drawn from national and the European parliaments, national governments and the European Commission. It is intended to address the problems of a Union of 450 million people after the enlargement to 25 member sates next May by drawing together al the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice in a simpler cohesive Constitution for Europe which is intended to produce widening and deepening of the EU at the same time for a Union of 450 million people.
It is a balance between federalists and intergovernmentalist thinking.
It has aimed to rebalance the powers of the Institutions namely the intergovernmental European Council, the European Commission and the Parliament. It states that powers derive from the member states but grants exclusive powers to the EU in competition, in the single market, eurozone monetary policy,common commercial policy, customs union and common fishery conservation. Other areas are shared in which the member states can act alone if the EU has not already legislated.
The Commission which is the Guardian of the Treaties with the sole power of initiative of legislation will become two tiered with rotating 15 Commissioners with full voting rights although all states will retain a Commissioner making for a total of 25.
The reformed European Council which sets strategic policy at summit meetings will elect a full time President for a 2.5 year period as the international face of the EU and Chair of the European Council. Currently the post rotates 6 monthly. However the Chairs of the different Council of Minister meetings other than the Eurozone Group will still rotate 6 monthly. A modified version of the fiscal rules of the Stability and Growth Pact is incorporated. The meetings of the Council of Ministers will henceforth be in public when they are acting as co-legislators with the Parliament.
There will also be a new post of EU Foreign Minister which will Chair a Foreign Affairs Council and be both a member of the Commission as well as the Council and combine the current intergovernmental policy role of Xavier Solana and Chris Patten who controls the Aid budget.
Foreign policy under CFSP, Defence and Security under ESDP, Social Security and Taxation policy will still remain by unanimity but all other areas will go to QMV with a simple majority of member sates representing 60% of the population. So any big three countries can veto but Spain and Poland deeply object to this as it dismantles the Nice formula which gives bigger weighting to them than their size would justify and Spain is keen to retain this whilst budget negotiations are taking place and delay the simpler system to 2009.
The role of national parliaments is enhanced to reduce the democratic deficit and disconnection from the citizens. This involves an annual debate on the work programme and if a third of national parliaments disagree the right to demand a review of a Commission proposal.
The EU will acquire legal personality allowing it to sign international treaties, there is a proposal to set-up a public prosecutor for cross border crimes and fraud against the EU with QMV controversially applying to these criminal matters. The supremacy of EU law over national law is enshrined. Immigration and Asylum policy becomes subject to QMV and the parliamentary supervision of Europol is strengthened. The Charter of Fundamental Rights becomes binding on EU law and Institutions. The EU will have a duty to co-ordinate national employment and economic policy but pensions and social security remain national matters.
It is generally considered that the proposals weaken the Commission and enhance the role of the Council at the expense of the smaller countries who are unlikely to become the new President. The neutral countries eg Sweden, Austria and Ireland are concerned at the optional “mutual assistance clause” which obliges military help if a member state is attacked and the proposed arms procurement and military research agency.
The IGC is bound to unpick some of these proposals but more crucially the Constitution will be put to national Referenda in some countries like Sweden, Ireland and Denmark where it may well be rejected creating a crisis in the EU and possibly an abandoning of the whole project or a request for that country to leave the Union for which a secession procedure is now set-up for in the Draft Constitution for the first time.