22nd Apr 2019

EPP reaches compromise on draft EU Constitution

The European Peoples Party, (EPP) wants a strong European "prime minister" as president of the EU Commission. The Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar is a likely candidate for this post. It also wants the European Parliament to elect the European prime minister.

He shall then appoint his "government" meaning member states would no longer have the right to have their own commissioner. This federalist approach was opposed by some members who wanted a "super president" for the EU appointed by the heads of states.

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The draft for a European Constitution was approved yesterday, at the end of the 15th European People’s Party Congress, in Estoril, Portugal. It represents a two-year effort to reach a consensus between the two different visions on the future of the EU; one inter-governmentalist, one federalist.

A final interpretation in the plenary session rejected the possibility of a super president of the Council. Instead it proposes a Commission president, elected by the parliament. The Council would still have its executive tasks and would be split into two offices, including a Foreign Affairs Council.

Balanced perspectives

These measures are a compromise based on the diverse opinions presented in the Congress. On one hand it is considered a victory for the small countries, which are totally against the EU president. They fear consolidated power for the larger member states, as they have fewer chances to reach the president position. "Europe needs great ambitions, it doesn’t need more presidents", said the Luxembourg prime minister, Jean Claude Juncker.

On the other hand, the new proposals go some way to appeasing those who demand a strong Union leader. The largest countries, such as Spain and Germany, supported this position. These different opinions were discussed in depth over the two days by 900 EPP delegates and leaders from different countries. Ten prime ministers, seven from the EU, attended the opening session last Thursday.

Vague expressions

In his final conclusions, EPP president Wilfried Martens summed up that this had been "a way to congregate two different sensibilities" expressed during the congress. "The 34th point (about the Council) shows that we want an executive power in Europe." Despite these efforts to create this consensus between EPP party members, each country can still choose to ignore the document and go on defending its own particular views on the future of Europe.

Some expressions, in the final document, are quite vague and allow different interpretations, which led to several discussions and doubts. Mr Martens tried to create some confidence by reminding delegates that those were only guidelines for the Convention. Although he then went on to underline the importance of the document given that the EPP is the largest European political family.

EU will not enlarge forever

"This is a party with two positions. But we will end up maintaining a structured line, which has always been our attitude", commented Portuguese Alberto João Jardim, after being elected one of the 10 EPP vice-presidents.

These reforms stand for the viability of an EU with 25 member states, which demands a more flexible institutional structure. For this reason a lighter Council structure was proposed, and all countries being represented in the Commission was rejected. But Mr Martens warned that the EU "won’t enlarge ad eternum." For this reason the establishment of special guidelines for cooperation with countries that won’t belong to the EU was approved.

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