3rd Dec 2023

Giscard unveils new institutional deal

Convention President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and his inner team worked into the early hours of Friday morning to come up with a text on institutions that they hope will save the beleaguered debate on Europe's constitution.

A source close to the 12-strong presidium told the EUobserver that for the first time it allows the "whole picture to be seen" and had a real chance of being "just about acceptable to all".

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The new text on division of power between the EU institutions proposes that the terms set by the Nice Treaty - weighting of votes in the council, number of MEPs and number of commissioners - stays in place until 2009.

Commissioners on rotation, seats in parliament raised

After this date, it is proposed that there be one commissioner per member state but that only 15 will be able to vote. The 15 should be rotated on an equal basis - meaning that every five years a member state will not have a commissioner with real powers as they will not vote.

The idea of a permanent chairman of the European Council has remained but the powers allocated to the post have been somewhat reduced.

Although small member states had been greatly opposed to the idea of a chairman fearing a directoire of the big states, they might be prepared to accept the idea as they have got their way with maintaining one commissioner per country.

Commission president Romano Prodi also said in a speech to the European Parliament this week that he could accept the idea of a weak chair of the European council.

Small member states also got their way on seats in the European parliament - the number will be raised to 732.

One year rotation for councils

The current rotation system will continue for councils except the general affairs council and the external affairs council but for a period of one year - currently it is six months and greatly beloved by small states as it gives them a chance to be at the forefront of the EU's decision-making process.

The external affairs council will be chaired by the foreign minister.

On the other hot issue for states - the vote weighting per government in the council - Mr Giscard and his team propose that after 2009 a majority of the states plus three fifths of the population would be enough to see a decision taken.

Although this has gone some way to alleviating small states' fears, they are still likely to insist that there is an evaluating clause of how the current treaty of Nice is working - having insisted all the way that the complicated terms of Nice should not be opened at all.

Alojz Peterle, one of the team working until the small hours this morning to get the text ready, commented to EUobserver that "compromises are more likely to survive where all the components are not satisfied".

At the moment the different factions in the convention, MEPs, MPs and government representatives are meeting to assess the new proposals.

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