4th Jun 2023

Verhofstadt: 'Laeken Declaration has no taboos'

The Laeken Declaration on the future of Europe, adopted by the EU heads of state at the Laeken summit launches "a debate with no taboos on the future of Europe," according to the Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, current president of the European Council. “The Laeken Declaration launches all fundamental questions. There is no taboo, and that was exactly my intention. In order to eliminate the weak points in the EU, we need a declaration and a Convention that overcomes all taboos,” Mr Verhofstadt said. The Declaration calls for a Convention of over 100 members from the EU countries, EU institutions and the candidate countries to reflect on future EU reforms and formulates the question that the Convention will have to tackle.

The Laeken declaration “asks all the questions that we have to ask”, said Mr Verhofstadt: the question of adopting a European constitution, of the functioning of the Council of ministers, the direct election of the President of the European Commission, and the repartition of competencies between EU and member states.

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The Declaration has three parts: an analysis of the political situation in the European Union (Europe at a crossroads), a second part on challenges and reforms in a renewed Union, launching the questions to be ask in order to come up with reforms, and a last part on convening a Convention on the future of Europe.

The analysis of today’s EU problems is based on the assumption that the EU is a success story, but stands at a crossroads, a defining moment in its existence. The declaration acknowledges there is a democratic deficit facing Europe, and in the new globalised world the EU has to shoulder its responsibilities. The analysis also admits that the present EU does not meet the expectation of the citizens, who call for a “clear, open, effective, democratically controlled Community approach,” and more action in some areas, less intrusion in other. The first part of the declaration was re-written by the Belgian presidency, after several heads of state told Mr Verhofstadt, during the “tour des capitals,” the analysis presented a too negative image of the EU.

The second chapter on challenges and reforms launches the question that should be tackled over the next reforms’ reflection. The declaration calls for a better division and definition of competences in the EU, and a clarification of the EU powers, for a simplification of the Union’s instruments, for more democracy, transparency and efficiency in the European Union. The last series of questions addresses the issue of a European constitution. Detailed questions concern the direct election of a president for the European Commission, extending the powers of the European Parliament, the setting up of a European electoral constituency, increasing the transparency of the work of the Council of ministers, and stepping up the participation of national parliaments in the EU decision-making.

The last part of the declaration convening a convention on the future of Europe sets out the composition, the proceedings and the workings methods of the Convention.


2005: France and Netherlands vote against the Constitution

"Both referenda weren't about the constitution," Guy Verhofstadt says. "In France, it became a referendum on Jacques Chirac. In the Netherlands, it was about whether they paid too much - something some Dutch politicians have been repeating for 10 years."

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