29th Feb 2024

Convention strikes key deal on EU future

The Convention on Europe's future looks to be back on track as several quarters gave a cautious welcome Thursday, 6 June to the new proposals on institutions by its president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Hammered out by Mr Giscard's team last night, the details, as revealed by the EUobserver this morning, keep the Nice Treaty in place until 2009 before introducing changes.

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Mr Giscard himself said that a "significant" number of representatives in the Convention supported it and that it could form "the basis for a compromise".

Light on the horizon

German foreign minister Joschka Fischer said "the smoke is getting a little bit lighter" and that there is "more gray than dark".

Gijs de Vries, representative of the Netherlands at the European Convention, told the EUobserver that while governments are "still waiting to see the detail" the presidium "has finally listened".

He added that it was important to examine just how the relationship between the Commission president and a president of the Council would work to make sure that the Commission is not undermined and cautioned against any "ratcheting down" of the presidium proposals over the next few days.

Leaders of the 16 countries who formed a united front calling for maintaining the terms of the Nice Treaty also sounded more conciliatory.

Common sense

Henrik Hololei, Estonian government representative, famous for his 'give Nice a Chance' phrase said it was "definitely a step forward" and that the text kept to the "spirit of Nice".

Irish minister for Europe Dick Roche characterised the proposals as an "outbreak of common sense".

Elmar Brok, leader of the EPP delegation in the Convention, who had called Mr Giscard's previous proposals "autistic" was much more generous with his praise on Friday.

"The decisions of the Convention presidency overnight demonstrate that the Constitutional Convention of the European Union can end in success. Even if the current draft is not perfect and must be improved it nevertheless represents a rounded, forward-llooking concept".

Lonely Spain?

The government in Madrid still has major reservations. As it did well out of the Nice Treaty with vote weighting, it is fighting a rearguard action not to reopen the Treaty.

Alfonso Dastis the Spanish government representative told reporters on Friday morning that it was not the job of the Convention to reopen the question of the number of the commissioners and vote weighting.

I fear it could go to the intergovernmental conference, he warned.

Eurocritical Convention members are also not happy. "The draft constitution compromise will move many more decisions from the Member States to Brussels and weaken our parliamentary democracies," UK MP David Heathcoat-Amory, Jan Zahradil, Czech MP and Jens-Peter Bonde, Danish MEP said in a common statement.

They will now prepare a minority-report to the Convention's report to the summit in Thessaloniki.


The new proposals foresee the Commission maintaining one commissioner per member state but with a core of 15 who can vote. This will be decided on a rotation and equality basis.

The idea of a chairman of the European Council has survived with the added function of overseeing the Union's foreign policy "without prejudice" to the foreign minister - this will be welcomed by the UK which has fought hard against losing any sovereignty in common foreign and security policy. The chairman can be a member of a European institution, but can not have a national post.

Double majority voting will automatically be introduced in 2009. This means a decision can be taken by 13 of the 25 member states if representing 60% of the toal EU population. The three largest states have together more than 40% of the population and will be able to block a decision that 22 other countries agree. A qualified majority voting can prolong the voting terms set by the Nice Treaty for a further three years, before the new double majority voting system begins.

The principle of rotation will be kept for sectoral councils and will be extended to one year.

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 final text on the role of EU institutions that they hope will save the beleagured debate on Europe's constitution. The new text on division of power between the EU institutions proposes that the terms set by the Nice Treaty stay in place until 2009.

Convention ready to adopt European Constitution

Before the start of the last Convention plenary today in Brussels, the wider lines of the Constitution are agreed and the road cleared for the president of the Convention, Válery Giscard d'Estaing, to adopt the final Constitution by Friday .


Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

In a fractious parliamentary vote, the level of party discipline often decides the fate of legislation. Party discipline among nationalists and far-right MEPs is the weakest, something potentially significant after the June elections. Data by Novaya Gazeta Europe and EUobserver.

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