Thursday

21st Jan 2021

'Democracy commissioner' doesn't rule out treaty change

  • Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica said if citizens want the conference results to be binding - they could be (Photo: European Commission)

EU Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica said on Wednesday (22 January) that the EU executive was "open" to treaty change - if European citizens demand it through the planned two-year reform exercise.

The Croatian commissioner presented the executive's outline on the Conference on the Future of Europe, a dialogue with citizens aimed at better involving EU voters in policy-making, especially in the wake of Brexit.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We will not pre-empt what will be the outcome, if citizens say they want treaty change we are open to this too," the vice-president for democracy and demography told reporters in Brussels.

The commission originally had included possible treaty changes as the result of the conference in its draft proposal - but in the communication on Wednesday there was no reference to the gruellingly-complicated process.

Šuica said that whatever comes out of the conference "will be transposed into concrete policies and even in legislative acts.

Most member states have been reluctant to enter into the long and precarious process of changing treaties, the basic rulebook for the functioning of the EU, often regarded as opening a 'Pandora's box' which is then difficult to close.

EU affairs ministers will discuss their position on the conference next Tuesday, but are not yet expected to formalise a common position.

The structure of the dialogue is still under negotiations between the three major EU institutions.

The parliament adopted its position last week on a regular set of structured meetings with EU citizens from all over the continent, named "agoras", the Greek for forums.

The commission on the other hand is less clear about their vision on the actual structure of the discussion, saying it wants a simple, workable and practical structure.

The executive's proposal argued that the already-existing "citizens' dialogues", regular meetings for the past five years with commissioners, should be the basis for the conference.

The commission wants the conference to focus on two parallel strands: policy ideas in climate, social affairs, digital policy, foreign policy, the EU's democratic foundation, and institutional reform focusing on the lead candidate ('Spitzenkandidaten') system and transnational lists.

Introducing transnational lists would require legislation and takes time, and the commissioner said it should be done in time for the 2024 EU elections.

"No one would like to approach 2024 elections without knowing the rules, we need to do this as soon as possible," she said.

Šuica left it open whether the demands of citizens could become binding in the commission's view, saying "if a majority of citizens want something, why not make it binding, but I can't say more".

She said the commission wants to reach as many citizens as possible, and not only to the already pro-EU ones.

However, some MEPs involved with hammering out the parliament's proposal on the conference have already criticised the commission for not mentioning treaty changes explicitly.

The conference is to kick off officially on 9 May (Europe Day), and the commission proposed Croatia's Dubrovnik to host the event.

EU gears up for post-Brexit renovation

Both EU member states and the parliament want to be ready in January with an agreement on how to involve citizens in a serious attempt to rethink the future of the EU. But institutional issues would come first.

EU states wary of MEPs leading future conference

The majority of member states back the "policy first" concept of the Croatian EU presidency for the focus of the post-Brexit internal reform exercise. EU countries also want to make sure the EU parliament does not get to lead alone.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit prompted finance exodus from UK to France
  2. Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate
  3. Borrell washes hands of EU's Venezuela policy
  4. Russia backs Greece in eastern Mediterranean dispute
  5. 'Ski-holiday' Switzerland reaches new infection high
  6. Germany extends lockdown, others expected to follow
  7. Barnier to be Brexit special adviser to von der Leyen
  8. EU commisioner to visit Bosnia's Lipa migrant camp

Feature

EU Parliament: Strasbourg, or the climate?

A report of the European Parliament's environmental management unit proposes a treaty change to move the European Parliament's headquarters from Strasbourg to Brussels - in order for the institution to become climate-neutral by 2030.

Opinion

German presidency's broken promises on 'fair tax'

At the start of the German presidency of the EU Council it committed itself to a "fair taxation" agenda. But as we enter the final leg of its six-month term, time is running out to make good on this promise.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  2. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  3. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference
  4. EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex
  5. Untapped potential of the single market could boost European recovery
  6. Biden's 'Age of Aquarius'? Mars and Venus will clash over China
  7. The new dimension of 'ever-closer union'
  8. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us