6th Dec 2023

EU inches forward on Constitution

After a messy meeting in Naples on the Constitution, EU foreign ministers appeared to have agreed to having one Commissioner per country but remain utterly divided on vote weighting in a future EU.

The apparent agreement on Commissioners is a victory for small member states which have long fought to have "their" Commissioner in Brussels.

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However, it is unclear whether Germany would accept such a development. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer complained that more Commissioners would create more bureaucracy.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it had been generally agreed that each member state should have one Commission per member state with full voting rights - but that the door will be left open for considering a smaller Commission "once Europe is totally consolidated".

"Once consolidated, some made the point that later, we should consider a smaller, slim, nimble commission", said Mr Frattini.

Hard fronts on Nice

However in the old chestnut of vote weighting, there was little movement. Spain and Poland have stuck to their guns in their support of the Nice Treaty voting system which guarantees them a relatively beneficial voting weight in relation to their population size.

During a debate on the issue of Saturday morning (29 November), both Spanish and Polish foreign ministers Ana de Palacio and Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz gave a long list of the benefits of Nice for guaranteeing efficiency and equality.

Ms de Palacio said that nobody had yet succeeded in convincing her about the new voting system.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, on the other hand, argued that the new system (which proposes from 2009 that decision would be made on the basis of a majority of member states representing 60 per cent of the population) would keep the balance between large and small member states.

For his part, the UK's Jack Straw suggested that there should be a "rendez-vous clause" somewhere closer to 2009 to decide whether Nice is working or not.

An EU diplomat said those who still really care about the vote weighting in a future EU are Spain, Poland, the UK, France and Germany - for the rest it is not such an issue.

Speaking to journalists afterwards Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was a little unclear on what had been decided.

"We are all convinced that the Nice system will be in place until 2009", adding that all states were convinced that they wanted the most efficient decision-making system.

He did not give any more concrete details but the Italian Presidency is likely to propose another solution closer to the final Summit on the Constitution in two weeks time.

Diplomats say that several other equations were flying about in the discussions - such as a 50% (countries) -50% (population) or a 60%-60% system.


Foreign ministers also agreed that the minimum number of MEPs for the smallest member states should be raised.

However, they did not agree the minimum only that it should be "a little more" as Mr Frattini put it.

Finally, the proposal to introduce qualified majority in common foreign security policy when the foreign minister makes a suggestion has been shot down in flames by the UK.

Mr Straw said that it would create the risk of generalising qualified majority voting in foreign policy issues.

All these issues will be revisited again when EU leaders meet in Brussels in two weeks time.

"It will be a long long summit", said one diplomat wearily.

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