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Politics

by Francis Wurtz

The Truth about the Future European Treaty (Part 2)*

Translated Thursday 16 August 2007, by Steve McGiffen

The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), in other words the representatives of the twenty-seven member states of the European Union, have been at work since 23rd July on the elaboration of the future European treaty. In fact, the IGC’s mandate established in June by the heads of state and government is so precise that the final text is, in its essentials, already on the table.

How will things proceed in concrete terms? The negotiators and their experts have in their hands two texts: one consists of the existing treaties (the Treaty of Rome as modified by the Single European Act of 1986 and then by the Treaties of Masstricht in 1992, Amsterdam in 1997 and Nice in 1999); the other is the planned Constitutional Treaty rejected in 2005. The current treaties remain in force. The work of the Intergovernmental Conference takes the form in fact of integrating into these existing treaties all of the new aspects of the formerly proposed constitution, with the exception of a certain number of elements duly mentioned in the mandate established by the heads of state and government. In broad lines what has disappeared are the symbols (the word ’constitution’, the references to the European flag and anthem, etc); what remain are the fundamentals.

This is therefore a matter neither of a mini-treaty nor of a simplified treaty. It is a compilation of the treaties currently in force (the content of which we can judge on the basis of the concrete policies pursued in their name), completed by the essentials of the new provisions of the former constitutional treaty. That is why the new text is called an "amending treaty". I imagine that in the end it will be known more simply as the "Lisbon Treaty", because it is in that city that it must be signed.

All of that is, moreover, secondary. The only questions which are worth putting – in particular for those who voted ’no’ in 2005 – are these: what has become, in the new text, of the aspects which were at the heart of the referendum campaign debates of two years ago? What other innovations of the former constitutional treaty, which were less spoken of at the time, but which also have their importance, will be added to the existing treaties in the future text which will regulate the European Union.

I will answer the first question in my next article. I want now to look at the second, enumerating the principle institutional ’innovations’ taken from the former constitutional treaty, in some cases slightly modified.

The new treaty foresees:

- the creation of the post of President of the European Council with a term of office of two-and-a-half years renewable once;
- the creation of a new office of High representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy;
- the institution of a system of double majority voting at Council (50% of the states and 55% of the population from 2014 (with transitional measures until 2017);
- the extension of the areas under which decisions are taken by qualified majority;
- the reduction of the number of commissioners and strengthening of the role of the President of the Commission;
- the extension of the areas under which co-decision applies (European Parliament and Council);
- a slight softening of the conditions under which a minimum of nine member states will be able to agree to reinforced cooperation amongst themselves;
- the recognition of the Union as having a legal personality, which will allow it to conclude, in its own right, agreements and treaties in the name of all of the member states;
- the reaffirmation of the primacy of community law over national law, in the form of an annex to the treaty referring to the decisions (the jurisprudence) of the Court of Justice on this subject;
- a slight prolongation of the period accorded to national parliaments (from six to eight weeks) to examine the proposals for European legislative acts in order to check that the European Commission has not exceeded its prerogatives (principle of subsidiarity)

The effects of these reforms depend broadly speaking on the vision of Europe which they serve. I will endeavour to illustrate next week the size of what’s at stake on the basis of a number of examples.


Note:

This is the second part of an article published in the 8 August 2007 edition of Humanité Dimanche (not available on line) by Francis Wurtz, president of the Group of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL). For Part 1, see http://humaniteinenglish.com/article660.html.


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