Thursday

9th Apr 2020

Giscard to present draft treaty by end of October

  • Europe's new constitution will last for at least fifty years, reckons Convention chairman, Valery Giscard d'Estaing. (Photo: EUobserver)

The chairman of the European Convention, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is ready to present a 10-page draft for a European Constitutional treaty in the next Convention meeting, 28 October.

The draft is expected to follow the sketch set up in an earlier paper, which was leaked in June to the EUobserver.com. The big task for Mr Giscard d’Estaing will be to bridge the views of European federalists with inter-governmentalists.

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A special congress of national parliamentarians and members of the European parliament, which would be consulted over key decisions, seems at the moment to be the only element offered by Mr Giscard to satisfy the more EU-sceptical, who do not wish to see national parliaments and local democracies losing more power to the European institutions.

A more permanent administration for the council in Brussels could satisfy European governments while ending the system of rotating six-monthly presidencies would be welcomed by the federalists as a move in the right direction.

A constitution for the next fifty years

The various ideas of a European president are also likely to find support among inter-governmentalists and federalists, however it depends on the way such a president should be elected and the power he would be given. The French, British and Spanish governments have all indicated support for the idea of a permanent president of the council to maintain a longer-term agenda, while the Commission president, Romano Prodi fears such a development could lead to less influence of his body. Also the smaller EU member states are opposed to the ideas of electing a European President, as they think it would always be a position offered only to large member states.

'United Europe'

Mr Giscard d’Estaing believes his plans for Europe’s future will last fifty years, according to an interview in the Financial Times on Monday.

The final product, the result of months of convention meetings, working groups and consultations in national capitals, would become Europe's constitution, however the name of the baby is not yet decided. In a speech in the College of Europe in Bruges last week Mr Giscard mentioned four possible names: the European Community, the European Union, the United States of Europe and United Europe.

In the interview with the Financial Times, he appears to favour "United Europe" - to emphasise the common bonds between European citizens.

The 105 convention members, drawn from the European Parliament, the Commission, national governments, parliaments and countries to join the EU will be presented to the heads of EU states and governments at the summit in Greece in June 2003. "If the work has been sufficiently perfected, four or five meetings of prime ministers or foreign secretaries should be able to finish things off," Mr Giscard told the Financial Times. "But not a big diplomatic debate reopening things."

On foreign affairs policy and economical policy, Mr Giscard appears to be moderate. In the interview he says: "It would be unrealistic at the moment to indicate that there would be a common foreign policy decided by majority vote". Equally, although he says he has not yet discussed the Commission's request for greater powers in co-ordinating economic policy, he sees no "major reasons" to change the current balance between Brussels and member states.

Four working groups presented findings to Convention

Last week four working groups in the Convention presented their work in the plenary. In the legal personality group only euro-sceptics were opposed to the plan of a single legal personality of the EU, which will make the European Union look like a state when seen from the rest of the world. The group also recommended putting an end to the pillar system of the EU. This would mean the justice and home affairs issues as well as foreign affairs would all appear in the same treaty. Under the current system, they are dealt with in the Treaty of the European Union, as separate inter-governmental policies.

The group on subsidiarity and the group on the role of national parliaments reached broad agreement on a proposal to give national parliaments a six-week alarm-bell function to protest to, but not to block new European legislation.

Finally the group on the Charter of Fundamental Rights agreed that the Charter must become part of the new Constitutional Treaty to make it look like a real Constitution.

Group to present structure of EU Constitution

A draft stucture of a future European constitution is due to be presented to the plenary session of the Convention at the end of October. It will take the form of a "detailed list" of "items to be entered into the treaty." The UK have taken up the challenge. They are determined to see that their idea for a EU president, elected by the governments, and having the role of being the public face of the EU, is inserted in this stucture.

Giscard presents Constitution for a New Europe

An important step in the progress towards a European Constitution took place on Thursday. Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe presented the outline of such a constitution to his colleagues in the Convention’s steering committee – or presidium. A short document consisting of just a few pages with some twenty chapter headings, it contained one very controversial point: Should EU member states fail to ratify this new constitution – by referendum or otherwise – then they will simply not be a part of the new system. They will be outside of the new Europe.

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