Tuesday

20th Feb 2018

Germany gives ear to Poland in 'Reform Treaty' talks

Germany has made a concession towards Poland by mentioning Warsaw's wish to have a debate on the voting system in its latest treaty proposal paper – a document that officials spent five hours discussing on Tuesday evening.

On the eve on the EU leaders gathering in Brussels, the German presidency circulated an 11-page document saying the bloc aims at establishing a "Reform Treaty," which would consist of the amended Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The voting issue is mentioned in a footnote in the latest paper (Photo: European Council)

According to sources present at the talks, while there is "general consensus" among member states that the reform package will avoid state-like terminology such as the "constitution" and "foreign minister," strong differences remain on the treaty's substance.

The meeting of the 27 teams of sherpas - EU member state negotiators – showed there are still divisions in six areas - the Charter of Fundamental Rights, primacy of EU law over national law, the transfer of power between the EU and member states, common foreign and security policy, the role of the national parliaments and the voting system.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights, listing citizens' social and civil rights, prompted the hottest debate last night, with strong arguments flying from both camps. The German Presidency has suggested there should be only a reference to the charter in the new reform package, but the UK continues to oppose it becoming a legally binding document.

Similarly, Berlin has suggested dropping from the treaty the controversial line stating that EU law has primacy over national laws, and instead putting it in a separate declaration, which would accompany the treaty. But some EU capitals are not yet ready to accept the watered-down compromise.

Meanwhile, national parliaments are likely to secure a bigger say when it comes to legislation put forward by the European Commission. Under the German compromise proposal, the EU's executive body would be more bound to deal with the concerns of assemblies, if one third of them disagree.

Another controversial issue is the balance of power between the EU and its member states. The Czech Republic is demanding a "closed" or explicit list of the so-called shared competencies and that there be a strengthening of the "two-way flexible approach," allowing the transfer of power both ways.

In addition, the UK indicated it wants to extend its opt-in mechanism to the entire area of freedom, security and justice, which would give London the possibility not to participate in any fields such as immigration, asylum, police or judicial cooperation.

The UK is also fighting for changes to the provisions on common foreign and security policy.

Voting system

Having caused deep anger in Poland by not mentioning the voting system as a point of discussion in its recent treaty paper, circulated at the end of last week, Germany has now made a concession.

In a footnote, it mentions that two delegations are prepared to open this issue during the upcoming high level talks.

The paper does not name the two capitals – although it is an apparent reference to Polish and Czech demands to abandon the double majority system in the original EU constitution and instead introduce a mechanism favouring medium and small-size states.

According to sources, the wording does not change the fact that there is no will on the side of the German presidency or the rest of the club to open up what is seen as a Pandora Box by entering the tricky area of vote distribution.

However, the German voting move appears to have prompted a softening in Warsaw's stance, as well.

Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told Germany's Bild newspaper that Poland's wish for a voting system based on the square root of populations does not have to mean a stalemate in the discussions.

"At the moment we just want a debate on the voting system to be accepted," he said.

Meanwhile, Polish negotiators on Tuesday night indicated that they are also open to other voting systems and not just the square root based models so long as the democratic principle behind the square root idea is upheld.

Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president

Spanish finance minister Luis de Guindos will join the the European Central Bank in June, after his sole rival for the vice-presidency job stepped down on Monday.

MPs demand Council become more transparent

Three Dutch MPs, on behalf of 26 national parliamentary chambers across the EU, are demanding more transparency. 'The Eurogroup is the most opaque of them all,' complained Dutch MP Omtzigt.

Eurogroup starts process to pick new ECB chiefs

Eurozone finance ministers will pick who they recommend to become the European Central Bank vice-president - the choice is between their Spanish colleague Luis de Guindos, and the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Philip Lane.

EUobserved

Juncker too tight in his EU suit

The European Commission president floated ideas on what his institution could look like. But faced with the member state powers, he failed to lay out a structured vision.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  2. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  4. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  5. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  6. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  8. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  9. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  10. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  11. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”

Latest News

  1. Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission
  2. Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president
  3. Conservative 'buccaneering Brexit' narrative unrealistic
  4. MPs demand Council become more transparent
  5. Eurogroup starts process to pick new ECB chiefs
  6. 'Fact of life': some EU funding in new tech will get lost
  7. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  8. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  2. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  3. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  6. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  8. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  10. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  12. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling