22nd Feb 2024

Details on EU birthday declaration emerge

  • Chancellor Merkel (r) has come under fire for the way it has drawn up the declaration (Photo: German EU presidency)

The highly symbolic Berlin Declaration to mark the EU's 50th birthday is slowly taking shape with the current text highlighting climate change as Europe's top priority and the "community method" as a way for member states to work together.

According to the declaration outline distributed to member states and seen by EUobserver, the text will have five parts with brief passages and will not be longer than three pages.

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The first chapter will make a tribute to the success stories of EU integration, citing peace, prosperity – attributed to the internal market and the single currency - and stability as "central achievements of European unification."

The passage also notes that "accession of new member states helped unite the continent and consolidate democracy and the rule of law in Europe. The division of the continent could not have been overcome if the people in Central and Eastern European had not so yearned for freedom."

The second chapter focuses on "Features of European unification/cooperation" and singles out "democracy and the rule of law as the foundations of EU membership" and "equal rights and duties for all member states as well as transparency and subsidiarity as foundations of the EU." This is referred to as the "Community method."

Central values

In the third chapter on "Central values on which European unification builds", the declaration states that "the focus is on the human person whose dignity is inviolable, freedom and responsibility, solidarity as a crucial element of the European way of life, diversity is the hallmark of Europe making tolerance and respect essential."

The fourth part of the Berlin statement will highlight the EU's external and internal priorities, with energy policy and climate protection topping the list as "two components of a strategy to counter the global threats together" in which the EU should have a "pioneering role."

Other future goals include "strengthening the EU as a global player" through its foreign and security policy as well as development policy, with a focus on the commitment to peaceful conflict resolution.

Justice and home affairs policies are also dealt with by way of a passage talking about "securing elementary human and civil rights for all." It also stresses "shared commitment to combat terrorism and organized crime," and "working together to deal with illegal immigration."

Finally, on economic issues, the draft declaration outline says that strengthening competitiveness and the internal market should be carried out "hand in hand with social responsibility."

No EU constitution

The final part of the outline on "shared commitment" was supposed to include a reference to the EU constitution, rejected by France and The Netherlands in 2005.

The passage remained blank for weeks reflecting the controversy over renegotiating the treaty, but on Monday (19 March) the presidency distributed a new version with wording that some insiders suggest should be acceptable to all countries.

It merely refers to the 2009 European elections as a point when the EU should have resolved its institutional problems.

But insiders suggest the Berlin statement may be signed only by presidents of three EU institutions - Chancellor Angela Merkel (representing the council), Jose Manuel Barroso (European Commission) and Hans Gert Poettering (European Parliament).

The original idea was that leaders of all 27 member states would sign the non-binding document as they gather in the German capital on Sunday (25 March) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the EU's founding document.

Christian democrats' model for birthday text

Meanwhile, the pan-European centre-right EPP party on Monday presented its own version of the EU birthday statement claiming that all three EU presidents - Ms Merkel, Mr Barroso and Mr Poettering, as centre-right politicians - personally contributed to it.

This declaration suggests "the integration of Europe was primarily the achievement of European Christian democrats like Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi and Helmut Kohl."

The centre-right party's text also includes paragraphs about the fall of communism - favoured strongly by Poland in the general Berlin declaration but not likely to be included, according to observers.

Similarly, it refers to "Europe's Judeo-Christian roots" pressed for by Warsaw and as "the greatest challenge facing us today" they refer to the need to "preserve Creation."

However, it is completely quiet on the constitution although an original draft of the text did include a paragraph praising it as the best basis to achieve Europe's current objectives.

Reference to the constitution was removed after Ms Merkel said she would prefer not to have it mentioned, according to the head of the EPP Wilfried Martens.

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