9th Apr 2020

Italy prepares member state debate on EU treaty

  • The controversial start to the Italian six-month helm at the EU may have put paid to one difficult part of the discussion - on the future of rotating presidencies (Photo: EUobserver)

Preparations for the mandate of the intergovernmental conference to fine-tune the draft constitutional treaty are currently being drawn up by EU member states.

Under the guidance of the Italians, who have taken over at the EU's helm until the end of the year, the exact terms of the IGC have to be agreed by the member states.

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Italy set the ball in motion last week (3 July) by proposing an IGC outline at a regular high-level meeting of member state ambassadors.

The proposals which will formally include the starting date of the IGC, the representation and the timetable is set to be agreed by member state ambassadors at their meeting next Wednesday or Thursday (16-17 July) said a spokesperson.

Foreign ministers should then give the go-ahead to the mandate at their meeting in Brussels on 22 July.

The spokesperson added that "the exact details have not been agreed yet - not even the date" - and that the procedure has "only just started".

At the moment, Italy is in the process of informing the European Parliament and Commission about the IGC - something which it is required by the Treaty.

It is also consulting the European Central Bank as the Treaty blueprint foresees substantial changes to monetary policy.

At their meeting in Thessaloniki in June (20-21), EU leaders issued a statement saying that the IGC "should complete its work and agree the Constitutional Treaty as soon as possible and in time for it to become known to European citizens before the June 2004 elections for the European Parliament".

The end of rotating presidencies?

Mr Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, has said that he used the "art of mediation" to get a deal on the constitution, according to the BBC.

However, the controversial start to the Italian six-month helm at the EU may have put paid to one difficult part of the discussion - on the future of rotating presidencies.

The new treaty foresees a permanent president of the European Council to replace the current six-month rotating system which gives every country, whatever their size, a chance at the helm of the Union.

Scrapping the rotation system was hotly contested by smaller countries during the whole future of Europe debate.

However, given the tumultuous start to the Italian presidency with the now notorious nazi jibe by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, some diplomats are admitting that the chances of having a loose cannon at the helm of the EU are just too great in an enlarged EU.

"I think he [Mr Berlusconi] may have ended the discussion for us", conceded one small country diplomat to the EUobserver.


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