Tuesday

18th Dec 2018

Select group of politicians to tackle EU constitution

  • Two years after the formal signing of the EU constitution in Rome, politicians are looking into whether the document can be kept alive (Photo: European Commission)

Work on the EU constitution is to begin again in an informal manner when a "wise" group of politicians and officials from across Europe meet this weekend to see if they can come up with solutions to pull Europe out of its institutional impasse.

Italian former prime minister Giuliano Amato, who was vice-president of the 200-strong body that drew up the constitution six years ago, is the driver behind the group which will have its first meeting in Rome on Saturday (30 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Supported by the European Commission which is sending two commissioners - Danuta Hubner (regional policy) and Margot Wallstom (communications) - the group also includes British ex-commissioner Chris Patten, former French foreign minister Michel Barnier, ex-German justice minister Otto Schily, former prime ministers Paavo Lipponen and Wim Kok of Finland and the Netherlands.

The group represents the first public attempt at resuscitating the document which has been languishing in the political hinterlands since it was rejected last year by French and Dutch voters.

It is also an acknowledgement that nothing can be done at governmental level until the French elections early next year are over and done with.

Since the shock votes in mid 2005, the EU has not found the political will to tackle the constitutional question - with member states in June finding it politically expedient to instead prolong the 'period of reflection' about what to do about the constitution.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso put the issue back on the political table earlier this week by saying that there will be no further enlargement until there is an institutional settlement.

Romania and Bulgaria joining in January and bringing the number of member states to 27, the power-sharing limit foreseen under the current framework - the Nice Treaty - will only serve to make the issue more pressing.

This is particularly the case for countries that support further enlargement to take on Croatia, such as Germany.

Berlin takes over the EU presidency in January and supports a revival of the EU constitution but has so far been lukewarm about the proposals being touted in some capitals.

Last week, chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that she did not want to pick out parts of the document, appearing to reject ideas by French centre-right presidential contender Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian prime minister Romano Prodi.

The 'mini-treaty' idea had found favour in some quarters because it could get around a major political stumbling bloc in that it may only need to be approved by national parliaments, sidestepping unpredictable French voters.

However, Mrs Merkel also re-opened a can of political worms by resurrecting the idea that there should be a reference to God in the constitution.

The 'God debate' during original negotiations on the EU charter was long and bitter with the document eventually emerging without a reference to Christianity.

Berlin's position has left some analysts wondering whether it is possible to keep the whole document alive as well as reopening difficult issues like the religious heritage question.

Prodi proposes to chop down EU constitution

Italy's prime minister Romano Prodi has called for a slimmed-down version of the EU constitution, echoing proposals for a "mini treaty" made by French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy keen on radical shake up of EU institutions

French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed radical EU reforms such as getting the European Commission president to pick his own commissioners and cross-border European Parliament elections - but first he wants a new EU "mini treaty."

Lead MEP on Morocco resigns as her report passes

MEPs ultimately adopted a controversial report on an EU trade deal with Morocco - despite the sudden resignation by French liberal Patricia Lalonde as the file's rapporteur only moments beforehand. Her departure follows an EUobserver investigation into lobbying by Morocco.

Razor-edge victory for more lobbying transparency at EP

New rules to force MEPs chairing committees or drafting reports to publish meetings with registered lobbyists took a step closer to reality. The measure was narrowly backed 11 to 10 at the constitutional affairs committee but still needs plenary approval.

Leading MEP defends expenses secrecy

The man tasked with making the EP more transparent has said there are more important issues than making MEP monthly expenses public.

News in Brief

  1. 3,500 UK troops on standby for no-deal Brexit
  2. Brexit: Opposition disagrees over no confidence vote
  3. EU court confirms suspension of Polish judges law
  4. France to tax Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon
  5. EU negotiators agree CO2 targets for cars
  6. May: Brexit vote will be week of 14 January
  7. Rome finds extra budget funds to fit EU demands
  8. Polish climate talks end in agreement on rulebook

Opinion

Fiscal discipline rules in eurozone are devastating

New rules are needed that do not place the heaviest burdens on a few countries, but ensure that all countries benefit from the euro. Avoiding imbalances in trade between countries can do this.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU
  2. Orban protests target state media in new front
  3. Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice
  4. EU gives Switzerland another six months for a deal
  5. Fiscal discipline rules in eurozone are devastating
  6. EU capitals see weekend of tear gas and water cannon
  7. Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice
  8. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us