24th Mar 2023

EU treaty talks leave several political loose ends

  • Several political questions remain open before the Treaty can be considered ready for take off (Photo:

Although the legal experts have given their blessing to the EU's new draft treaty, there are plenty of political issues that may have to be dealt with by EU leaders when they meet later this month to sign off the document.

Topping the list is Poland's request to have a decision-blocking mechanism written into the treaty.

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Other member states fear this will make using the mechanism the norm rather than the exception and are battling to keep it in a declaration, which has no legal value.

Poland is "almost certain" to raise it at the summit, says one diplomat but notes Portugal - holding the current EU presidency - is working behind the scenes to get a deal with the Poles.

"They are unlikely to come to the summit without some sort of solution," said the diplomat who indicated that the Polish request for an extra advocate general at the European Court of Justice may be a bargaining chip.

The legal experts refused to deal with the matter, saying it was a purely political question, and that when a solution had been found they would turn it into legal text.

European Central Bank status

Another issue that may turn thorny is the status of the European Central Bank. Its head Jean-Claude Trichet wrote to the Portuguese presidency asking it to restore the special status it had under the rejected EU constitution, fearing that lumping it in the same category as other EU institutions would mean it could be exposed to the political vagaries of member states.

But Mr Trichet's request was rejected by the legal group, according to a source.

The whole issue of the bank's independence has taken on increased political importance since the power change in France before the summer. New president Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly made comments indicating he wants to curb the eurozone bank's independence.

UK opt-outs

In the legal experts talks, Britain managed to maintain its so-called red-lines by opting out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights - a document listing citizens' rights - as well as in the area of judicial and police cooperation.

It also managed to secure an agreement that the European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction in the areas which moved to court and commission scrutiny before the treaty comes into force, for a five-year transitional period.

However, one EU official dismissed the five-year concession as "not worth very much."

According to him, it only "allows [UK prime minister] Gordon Brown to say British interests have been defended."

Another point that is already causing a stir in Brussels is the position of EU foreign minister.

Foreign minister

Under the treaty rules the post - going under the laborious name of High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy - is supposed to kick into place as soon as the document is ratified in all member states.

The current timetable says this should be done by the beginning of 2009. This has already got people noting that the foreign minister could technically be in place before the European elections take place (mid 2009) and the new commission is in place (late 2009).

This raises all sorts of questions about a reshuffle in the current commission - the foreign minister will also be a vice-president of the institution - and who the person is likely to be and how he or she will be chosen.

Leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament at a meeting with commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday (2 October) questioned him on their role in choosing the foreign minister, with MEPs wanting to have as strong a say as possible.

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