31st Oct 2020

EU constitution talks likely to sideline Brussels

  • There are high expecations of the German EU presidency which faces several pressing issues (Photo: Wikipedia)

EU member states are likely to deal with reviving the EU constitution alone, without involving "Brussels machinery", or else a solution will not be found in time for a 2009 deadline, according to Germany's ambassador to the EU, Wilhelm Schönfelder.

Mr Schönfelder said that Germany, which takes over the six-month EU presidency in January, will try and avoid involving the council, commission and parliament in Brussels to speed up negotiations on the constitution, currently in limbo after being rejected by French and Dutch voters last year.

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 keep it out of the Brussels machinery," said the ambassador at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre on Wednesday (6 December) adding that otherwise "you will never come to a solution."

He also said that there will not be another European convention - the body of over hundred politcians including MEPs, MPs, ministers and observers which over a two-year period drew up the EU constitution.

Sounding out opinion

Germany is intending to appoint two "sherpas" - one from the chancellery and one from the foreign ministry - to sound out opinions in member states during the first couple of months of next year.

Berlin will then draw up a three-part report. The first part will analyse the situation in the EU - "in crisis" according to Mr Schönfelder - while the second part will consist of substance and third of procedure and timetable.

The last two parts will only be drawn up once Germany has gathered all the feedback from capitals.

But although the problem "can only be solved at the highest political level with heads of state and government," the fact that it is not clear who will be the leaders of France and the UK next summer while other governments such as in the Czech Republic and Hungary are troubled is adding to Germany's difficulties.

This political uncertainty will make it even more difficult to stick to the tight timetable.

Ratification again?

Mid-2009 has been set as a deadline for ratification of the new constitution - mainly because the current Nice Treaty anyway requires certain institutional changes from 2009.

Mr Schönfelder said that this means member states need to know what they have to ratify "by the end of 2007" as it takes "at least one year to ratify."

He said he believed this would mean having a short "technical" intergovernmental conference to agree a new-look constitution during the Portuguese presidency in the second half of 2007 and suggested that all member states would probably have to ratify the text - also those who have already approved the current text.

Currently, this would mean 16 countries going through ratification for a second time.

"That's what I imagine could be the outcome," said the ambassador stressing that it was his personal opinion.

Mr Schönfelder said he hoped the fact that 2008 and 2009 will bring about further difficult issues – such as reducing the number of commissioners as required under the Nice Treaty, or a review of the bloc's farm policy – would spur member states to reach a consensus on the EU constitution in 2007.

"If we do not succeed then this thing will be dead", he said of the charter adding that the EU would then be in a "very deep crisis" and not just a "crisis."

EU commission on defensive over 'revolving doors'

The European Commission rubber-stamped over 99 percent requests by officials to take on jobs in the private sector, posing ethical questions in light of known examples where conflicts of interests appear to be clear cut.


Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Under EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, transparency was supposed to be a "guiding principle". Instead, the European Commission is asking Kafkaesque questions in response to an access to documents request, and failing to meet its legal deadline.

Future of Europe: EU Council urged to propose a chair

Since the German presidency promised the Conference on the Future of Europe would start under their leadership, the European Commission and MEPs hope the event will be launched soon. But there is one issue: who will chair the conference?

Nine-in-ten EU regions face revenue plunge, report finds

The decrease of revenues in 2020 of subnational authorities in France, Germany and Italy alone is estimated to be €30bn for the three countries, a new report by the European Committee of the Regions says.

EU Parliament sticks to demands in budget tussle

The parliament wants €38.5bn extra for key programmes, which is less than their previous request of around €100bn. Negotiations continue on Thursday, but the budget and recovery could still get stuck on the rule-of-law issue.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

EU parliament vows not to cave in to budget pressure

The parliament's majorty dismisses the German EU presidency's proposal on the rule of law conditionality, which has emerged as the main political obstacle to agree on the next long-term EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us