Thursday

9th Apr 2020

Congress of the Peoples is unacceptable to the EPP

The European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest political family in Europe, have rejected Convention president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s idea for a European Congress of the Peoples. Speaking at the presentation of the EPP’s draft constitution, which was drawn up on the basis of Mr Giscard’s structural outline, Wilfried Marten, EPP chairman, said it was "not acceptable."

No new institutions

"We rejected the idea of creating a new institution," added Elmar Brok, German MEP and author of the text. Mr Giscard envisioned the congress as being a forum of MEPs and national parliamentarians, which could eventually elect a union president and had included reference to it in his structural outline.

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  • An article in the EPP paper suggest that member states would ratify according to their "respective constitutional requirements." Failure to do so, would mean them having one year to "decide whether they want to be a member of the Union on the basis of thi (Photo: EUobserver)

The EPP text also deviated from the Convention president’s line by failing to include an "escape clause" for member states wanting to leave the Union. Mr Brok said it had been omitted to avoid a eurosceptic groups in national parliaments proposing that their country leave the Union "over some trifle."

Another idea of Mr Giscard’s was also shot down: "We accepted the name ‘European Union’," announced Mr Martens - rejecting the possibility that the EU could be renamed United Europe or United States of Europe.

Irish referendum situation not to be repeated

However, the paper does take up the former French president’s ideas in one important way – on ratification. An article in the EPP paper suggest that member states would ratify according to their "respective constitutional requirements." Failure to do so, would mean them having one year to "decide whether they want to be a member of the Union on the basis of this constitution."

"We need some sort of mechanism for making things more supple," said Mr Martens referring to the fact that the recent Irish referendum on the Treaty of Nice, held up the whole of the EU. Mr Brok indicated that overall agreement was still needed for this clause saying that there were "other ways" of achieving this.

The old question of an EU president

Despite the "considerable progress" made with the paper, the controversial EU president question still remains open. While there was consensus that the Commission president should be elected by the parliament after being suggested by European Council, a question mark remains over the thorny issue of a European Union president, so strongly supported by Spanish and the UK.

The majority may have been against a "super president" but they were unable to agree who should be president of the executive chamber of the Council. A newly created foreign relations Commissioner holding this position - an idea which is pushed by Mr Brok - did not find consensus among the group. The paper leaves the question open.

"We do not want to have a two-pronged European presidency," said Mr Martens but admitted that he still has to talk, on behalf of the EPP, to the heads of state on the issue. This will take place just before the Copenhagen Summit in December.

EPP fleshes out Giscard's constitutional skeleton

The race is on to flesh out the broad constitutional outline which Convention chairman Valéry Giscard d'Estaing presented two weeks ago. The European People's Party, the biggest political family in Europe, will be first past the post. A constitution, drawn up by Convention member, Elmar Brok, seen by the EUobserver, was discussed at an EPP meeting in Frascati, near Rome over the weekend.

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