No guarantee EP will back Treaty of Nice
By Lisbeth Kirk
A majority of the Constitutional Affairs Committee in the European Parliament alongside the EP Vice President have been very critical of the Treaty of Nice. Without changes to several of the decisions made at Nice, the European Parliament may reject - if not all then – parts of the Treaty.
"Without a declaration that promises the right changes, the Treaty of Nice as a whole is not acceptable," says Vice President Ingo Friedrich to the EUobserver.com.
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The same demand for changes was made during Monday and Tuesday’s debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee. Almost all of the members, including the EU Parliament’s two official representatives at the Intergovernmental Conference in Nice, expressed that the Treaty of Nice was a setback for the decision making process in the EU.
Elmar Brok, MEP for the German CDU and EU Parliament representative at Nice together with the other representative Professor Dimitris Tsatsos, MEP for the Greek Socialist Party both said the threshold for a quality majority in the Council was set to high.
The EU heads of states and governments decided at Nice that until the EU is enlarged the threshold for a majority in the EU Council is set at 72 per cent of the votes. After enlargement 75 per cent of the votes will be needed in order to have a qualified majority. Mr Brok said this is exactly the opposite of what was needed and the same said Mr Dimitris Tsatsos. The fear is that this higher threshold will make the decision making in the EU much more difficult.
Another strong point of criticism is the lack of co-decision between the EU Council and the European Parliament. According to Vice President Friedrich there should be co-decision on all decisions taken by qualified majority voting in the Council. He has in letter to the Swedish EU Presidency stated that it must undertake the task of making sure that the changes needed are made.
"The Swedish Presidency needs to make a declaration that corrections are proposed and that these are to be implemented at latest by the next IGC in 2004. Without such a promise it is likely that the EU Parliament may either postpone the vote on the Treaty or vote and reject parts of the Treaty," says Vice President Friedrich. He also names the raised threshold as a critical area in the Treaty of Nice.
Jens-Peter Bonde, MEP for the Danish JuneMovement and President of the EU critical EDD group, said the EU Parliament had to reject the Treaty and thereby send the message to national governments that they had failed at Nice.
"The European Parliament cannot adopt this text. It is unusable," said Mr Bonde during the debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee.
The impact the result of the EU Parliament vote on the Treaty of Nice may have on the ratification is still rather unclear. The national parliaments in Italy and Belgium have stated they cannot ratify a Treaty rejected by the EU Parliament. But since every Treaty so far has been supported by the EU Parliament, this has never been tested.