5th Mar 2024

Merkel tasks MEPs with public EU treaty debate

German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested to the European Parliament that the body itself could organise a public discussion on the EU constitution, in a response to criticism of the secretive character of her efforts to revive the treaty.

Speaking before the European Parliament on Wednesday (29 March), Ms Merkel suggested that MEPs organise a public forum in May with its ideas serving as an input to a so-called intergovernmental conference of EU capitals on a new treaty expected to kick off later this year.

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  • Public debate on EU constitution could be held in the European Parliament, says Ms Merkel (Photo: eu2007.de)

At an EU leaders summit in June, Berlin plans to come up with a detailed timetable on how to revive the new treaty after its rejection by French and Dutch citizens in 2005 referendums.

Several MEPs participating in Wednesday's debate praised Ms Merkel for her achievements so far as the current EU president, but they questioned her method of behind-closed-door negotiations with national officials, sidelining other players such as the European Parliament.

Referring to last weekend's Berlin declaration marking the EU's 50th birthday, liberal leader Graham Watson said the text "drafted in the catacombs of the Bundeskanzleramt" should not have "the temerity to open with the words 'We, the citizens of the European Union'."

Greens co-chairman Monica Frassoni urged the German chancellor to "have courage to take a risk at democracy" by involving both parliament and wider public in debates about the revision of EU constitution, with Danish eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde calling on her "not to take away power from European citizens."

In her reply to deputies, Ms Merkel repeated the argument used previously that not all of Europe's deals can be "achieved out in the open marketplace" and publicly reported at every stage.

But she admitted that "European public must be stakeholders in what we are doing" and suggested that the European Parliament could organise a debate for civil society representatives in May on what should be in the revised EU constitution.

This public debate could be used as an "input" ahead of fast-track negotiations among member states in the second half of 2007, according to the likely scenario Ms Merkel plans to unveil in late June.

The Berlin declaration mentions a 2009 deadline for the bloc's "common basis" to be "renewed," with the German chancellor reiterating that despite scepticism about this deadline in some countries, a new treaty is needed before the 2009 European elections.

She argued the pre-election campaign in 2009 cannot be held in the situation where enlargement is no longer possible or where the union is still functioning by the outdated and ineffective procedures.


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