Thursday

9th Apr 2020

Giscard presents draft constitutional treaty

Officially handed out to members of the Convention on the future of Europe on Monday afternoon, the skeletal outline for a future constitutional treaty of Europe has 46 articles and is divided into three parts and a preamble. Introducing the draft as a "basic structure," Convention president Giscard Valéry d’Estaing, requested that the debate be on "structure and not on substance."

Convention delegates, who will Tuesday debate the proposal, will have much to consider. The new EU provided for by this outline will be built on "a federal basis" (article 1) including a "common defence policy to defend and promote the Union's values in the wider world" (article 30). In article 38 the draft provides for European direct taxation by stating that "the Union budget is fully financed by own resources."

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  • EUROPEAN CONVENTION - was presented a 17-page skeletal outline for a future constitutional treaty of Europe with 46 articles divided into three parts. (Photo: EUobserver)

The outline has also followed recent debate in the working groups of the European Convention. It proposes a single legal personality (Article 4) and a merging of the pillar structure so that justice and home affairs and common foreign and security policy would appear in the same treaty.

Citizens would enjoy a "dual citizenship, national citizenship and European citizenship", the paper says and people would be "free to use either, as he or she chooses". (article 5)

Built on a federal basis

The draft presented by Mr Giscard on Monday is the basic architecture of the future treaty and the specific elements are not yet filled out. As the whole system would be built on a federal basis some competences would be exclusive Union competence, other areas would be shared competence between the Union and the members states and finally some areas, would be left for the member states. The article 8 says, similar to the Swiss and the American tenth constitutional amendment: "any competence not conferred on the Union by the Constitution rests with the Member States".

Congress of the Peoples of Europe disputed

Mr Giscard's paper includes a proposal for a new institution, a "Congress of the Peoples of Europe" but the concrete composition of this new body will be drafted later in "the light of the Convention's work". (article 19) This formula was found after heated debates in the leading body of the Convention, the presidium where small states opposed to such a new body, while France and Spain were strongly in favour. The division in the presidium was reflected in the plenary on Monday afternoon with many delegate opposing the creation of a new body.

Exit clause

The paper does not take a stand in the discussion of electing a new EU president of the Council. Mr Giscard suggested that such "specific" elements be proposed at a later date, after the skeleton is approved.

The draft treaty includes paragraphs for accession of new member states to the Union , of suspension of Union membership and of voluntary withdrawal from the Union "by decision of a Member State". (article 46) The final and third part of the draft treaty includes provisions for the ratification and entry into force of the constitutional treaty, however it does not specify how this will happen.

\"Beginning of a new Europe

Saying that some thought it "too general" and some "too technical," Mr Giscard said it was an "outline" for a constitutional treaty needed for a the "beginning of a new Europe." Joshka Fischer, the German foreign minister and first-time participant in the Convention said it "was a very important step" before adding that "of course there are many unresolved questions."

Henning Christophersen, representing the Danish government in the Convention and a member of the presidium, said that it was a "ambitious" and "visionary" proposal. In a pointed reference to the notorious one-time-or-out ratification clause, which was left out of this final version of the draft, Mr Christophersen said that such an action should only be taken "unanimously." In the run up to today’s presentation of the outline, there had been a feverish debate in the presidium on whether a member state should be outside the new EU if they fail to ratify a new treaty. Fellow presidium member Klaus Hänsch insisted that whatever name it took, this was "definitely" a constitution.

\"Slowly but surely\"

To sum up Mr Giscard said that "slowly but surely" the Convention was moving towards its goal. The presidium, he said, would submit "draft sections" of the treaty based on plenary contributions with the final constitution being ready around summer 2003.

Convention broadly supports draft EU constitution

Although they had little over an hour to debate the draft outline for a future EU constitution on Tuesday, Convention delegates were broadly supportive of the "skeletal" proposal as a start-off point. However, as soon as the details of the outline were examined, criticisms were raised. Asked by Convention president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing to just debate the "structure," it was clear to all delegates that the task ahead, "putting the flesh on the bones" as several speakers put it, was where the difficulties would lie.

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