27th May 2019

Paris and Berlin propose EU foreign ministry

The Franco-German paper agreed in Paris earlier this week offers a solution to the so-called Patten/Solana problem. Currently the EU suffers from the fact that two people represent it externally. The foreign affairs commissioner Chris Patten and the High Representative for Common foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana. The paper which stresses that the EU is a "federation of nation states" suggests a foreign minister combining the two posts. The Commission would have no role in foreign policy, according to the Franco-German plans.

European foreign minister

This European foreign minister would preside over the Council for defence and external relations and would have the right of initiative for questions concerning common foreign and security policy. The foreign minister would be chosen by member state governments with the agreement of the Commission president and would have a "special status" in the Commission as this body will "not decide on foreign and defence policy."

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The foreign minister would have the diplomatic armour to back him or her up. As well as the current directorate general for external relations, a new foreign politics unit would be established. The Commission delegations will be turned into a delegation of the European Union which will lead to a fully fledged European diplomatic service.

No more veto right in ESDP

In security and defence policy decisions will be taken by qualified majority - except in issues with military implications, according to the paper. A country would still have a veto right if it goes against national interests. However if no solution can be worked out with the country, the question will still go to the European Council where it can be decided by qualified majority. In general, the Council will also have a "bigger executive responsibility" in justice and home affairs.

President of the European Council will represent EU

The government-elected president of the European Council will represent the EU at meetings of heads of states and governments. This, says the paper, will not damage the competence of the Commission or its president. This president will be in office for two and half years but has the possibility to be elected again. This long term post will create "continuity, stability and visibility" in an enlarged Union, says the paper. However, the paper is less clear on the relationship between the foreign minister and the European council president.

Rotation of tasks between Commissioners

The paper also suggests that the president of the Commission has the final say over the work of the executive and the Commissioners itself. The Commission president should also be allowed to choose some commissioners to represent particular geographical sectors and particular tasks. These should be equally rotated. The paper fails to mention how many commissioners there should be, only that when putting the Commission together the president should take into account demographic and geographical factors. The paper also suggests that both the Commission and the council have an executive role - although it does not delineate the power between them.

Giscard's Congress of the Peoples

Convention president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's idea of a Congress of the Peoples has been partially taken on board. The paper states "without creating new institutions" a dialogue between European and national parliamentarians shall be developed. It would take place once a year and be led by the European Parliament president.

The paper, which has been submitted to the Convention, calls for the inter-governmental conference to agree the final text "in the shortest time" - if possible "by the end of the year." The Convention is due to give its final draft constitution to governments in June.

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