Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

EU treaty blueprint sets stage for bitter negotiations

  • An upcoming IGC is to decide which ones of Germany's ideas will float (Photo: European Commission)

The German presidency has a paper outlining the issues it suggests need negotiating in an intergovernmental conference on a new treaty - but the list, which includes foreign policy, the role of national parliaments and citizens rights, looks set to give rise to lengthy and bitter negotiations.

The 11-page document - obtained by EUobserver - suggests that many of the innovations of the EU constitution be dropped, right down to the naming of new laws.

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The new document should be called a "Reform Treaty," the foreign minister should have another title, symbols such as the anthem and flag should be dropped, a sentence on the primacy of EU law should be taken out in favour of a declaration on existing EU case law, while EU legislation should continue to be called regulations and directives, instead of EU laws and framework laws.

The paper also allows for opting-out of judicial and police matters - "enabling member states to go forward on a given dossier while allowing others not to participate". If a third - or nine - member states want to go ahead with cooperation in this area, they should be able to, according to the paper.

Foreign policy

There is to be some new language on common foreign and security policy, which the UK has pushed up the topic hotlist with several 11th hour complaints.

A new paragraph suggests that foreign policy is "subject to specificic procedures" and that the European Court of Justice shall not have jurisdiction in this area. The European Commission and the European Parliament are not to get any extra power and language in related articles is to be tightened up so that the union cannot get more authority in this area.

The topic came up for heated discussion on Tuesday evening when London indicated that it wanted to reduced the powers of the foreign minister. It also objected to the proposed EU diplomatic service, saying it should only contain national officials.

Meanwhile, national parliaments would be given slightly more say on EU legislation but not going nearly as far as some countries - such as the Netherlands - have pushed for.

The length of time that they have to object to laws proposed by the commission will be extended from six to eight weeks. If a third of national parliaments object to a proposal, then the commission will have to submit a "reasoned opinion" as to why it is bringing the law, but it will not be obliged to withdraw it.

Power-sharing and enlargement

The final provisions of the treaty foresee an article on volunatary withdrawal from the union while procedures for revising the treaty are to remain. But it is to be made clear that "treaties can be revised to increase or reduce the competences conferred upon the union."

Meanwhile, the criteria for further enlargement of the union are to be changed. Would-be member states will have to respect the "values" of the European Union rather than the "principles" as currently stated. Countries will also be obliged to show "commitment to promoting such values."

This new wording is a sop to both France and The Netherlands which wanted stricter enlargement critieria included in a future treaty. Serveral member states pointed out however on Tuesday evening that including the actual Copenhagen criteria on democratic criteria would be subject to the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction, allowing third states to challenge the EU.

Other issues include the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is to be included in a single article only which makes it legally binding and sets outs its scope, with London fearing it will impinge on its sovereignty because it guarantees the right to strike, amongst other issues.

There is also to be a new article on member states' social security systems, saying that if a country fears that the "scope, cost, or financial structure" of their welfare system will be affected then they can refer the matter to the European Council.

As for the lay-out, the provisions are to become part of the Treaty on European Union and the original Treaty Establishing the European Community.

One EU official remarked that the future "Reform Treaty" - which retains most of the rejected EU constitution but in this new amended form - is now "unbelievably ugly" and will be "not at all clear to the citizens."

The paper is Germany's suggestion for the mandate of the so-called intergovernmental conference which, if EU leaders agree on Thursday, is to start work in July.

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