24th Sep 2023

Commission backs French veto reduction idea

  • The Barroso commission is seeking a "Europe of results" (Photo: European Commission)

A two-day seminar on the future of the EU saw the European Commission voice support for French proposals to remove national vetoes from the current EU treaties, hoping that 2007 will bring a further "institutional dynamic."

Commission officials on Friday (28 April) said that Paris' plans for a smoother-functioning EU, tabled earlier this week, had been briefly discussed by the college of commissioners in Lanaken outside Brussels.

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There is "convergence" between the French proposals and commission thinking, they indicated.

At the heart of the French idea is the elimination of national vetoes in justice and police cooperation and workers' protection rules, through a legal construction which does not require a change in current EU treaties.

Paris' proposals, strategically circulated just before the commission's brainstorming session, are in line with the commission's ambition to do "more and better" within the current EU legal framework.

The commission believes the bloc's constitutional deadlock, which emerged after French and Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution last year, is not likely to be broken soon, so the current treaties' potential should be "maximised."

"For the time being there is a lack of consensus on how exactly to move forward with the constitution," said one senior commission source.

But the source added "we should continue to ensure that things keep on moving even if there is no constitutional settlement."

2007 as the year of hope

Officials stressed the Barroso commission's focus on a "policy driven agenda" based on citizens concerns – it is hoped that this "positive agenda" will result in a consensus on a new treaty by 2007.

Officials highlighted that 2007 is the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which saw the founding of the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC).

"The fact that next year we're commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome is an opportunity to look again at the European project", said an official.

But more importantly, 2007 will also be the year when France and the Netherlands, the two states that voted "no" to the EU constitution, will have elections, while a German EU presidency is expected to push for a revival of the charter.

'\"Europe of results\"

Following the two-day seminar, the commission will hammer out a paper, due on 10 May, which will form the commission's contribution to a key EU leaders meeting on the future of Europe in June.

The paper may contain institutional elements, such as on the idea that the EU should only interfere where member states' action is ineffective – known in EU jargon as subsidiarity.

"We should address citizens concerns that the union is in some areas doing a bit too much," said one official.

But most of the paper will cover concrete policy area where citizens expect "results."

The term "A Europe of results" enjoyed a large consensus among commissioners during the seminar as a headline phrase, officials said.

One area where the commission will take action and be "more vocal" is social protection against the negative effects of globalisation,

"Commissioners recognised that a globalisation fund is not enough," said an official referring to a newly established EU fund helping laid-off workers find new jobs.

New enlargement jargon

The seminar also saw the birth of a new term related to enlargement, designed to soothe fears in EU aspirant states that Brussels has shut the door to further membership bids.

"We should look at the functioning capacity of the EU when it deals with enlargement," said one official, shying away from using the controversial term "absorption capacity."

The term "absorption capacity" officially refers to the EU's technical preparedness to welcome new member states, but it has gradually become a political synonym for negative EU public opinion towards enlargement.

"Functional capacity" is now to be floated by Brussels as a "more accurate" term.


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