MEPs work on plans to revive EU constitution
By Honor Mahony
With the EU constitution on the political backburner, some MEPs are trying to ensure that the European Parliament seizes the initiative and comes up with concrete proposals on what to do next.
Two MEPs charged with drawing up a report on the matter already have some preliminary ideas on how to get the EU out of its impasse, following the rejection of the constitution in France and the Netherlands before the summer.
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Under these ideas, there would be an initial treaty next year containing all points of the constitution that are not considered disputed.
UK liberal MEP Andrew Duff, one of the report's authors, told the EUobserver, that it could contain articles dealing with the institutions and the decision-making process - he suggested these are areas where there is broad consensus.
This initial treaty could then be agreed by the European and 25 national parliaments.
According to the UK MEP, a further convention would be needed to "complete the process" and deal with the policy part of the treaty - including economic governance, issues to do with the bloc's social model, the threshold for enlargement and the environment.
EU-wide referendum in 2009
The convention method was used to draw up the now-rejected EU constitution - and the precise issues highlighted by Mr Duff were among the ones that were most contested in the 16-month process.
The two MEPs envision that this definitive treaty, which has taken into account the concerns expressed by French and Dutch voters, would be ratified by popular vote across the EU on the same day as the European election in 2009.
Mr Duff and the co-author of the report, Austrian Green MEP Johannes Voggenhuber, are hoping to get the report completed in time for the December plenary.
However, there will be a lot of backroom negotiating before it is agreed. Finnish Centre-right MEP Alexander Stubb, who is preparing a shadow report on the issue, told this news-site that the constitution "cannot be picked apart".
He outlined a five-step process currently being considered by his group, the European people's party. This would see a year of reflection this year, followed by a year of analysis of what went wrong in 2006, a year of preparation in 2007, a year of revision in 2008 and finally ratification in four year's time.
Seizing the initiative
Aside from differences on some of the details, several MEPs in these groups have agreed that it is up to the EU parliament to seize the moment and try to get the treaty in place by 2009.
"We have to exploit this period of reflection" said Mr Duff while Mr Stubb said that the parliament "needs to fill the vacuum".
Their words come as both the current UK and the subsequent Austrian presidency look likely to avoid the topic.
EU leaders agreed to a "period of reflection" in June after the French and Dutch rejections of the treaty, but as no easy political solution is forthcoming, they are set to sidestep the issue for as long as possible.