20th Mar 2023

Convention to start discussions on 1 March

EUOBSERVER/LAEKEN The Laeken Summit called for a Convention to "provide a starting point for discussion" on the next EU treaties to replace the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties. The Convention starts work 1 March 2002 and ends 1 March 2003 under the Greek EU Presidency.

The Convention will in total have 105 members from 28 countries, however members from the 13 applicant countries will not be "able to prevent any consensus, which may emerge among Member States," which means they will not be able to vote.

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There is no fixed mandate for the work of the Convention, which will comprise “either different options, indicating the degree of support which they received, or recommendations if consensus is achieved,” according to the Laeken Declaration adopted by the EU heads of states on Saturday 15 December.

This means, the Convention can produce more than one proposal, which is not what the federalists had wanted. They demanded that only one proposal should be prepared by the Convention in order force the governments to accept this proposal in the end.

The Convention will meet in Brussels and work in the 11 EU working languages, which means that applicant country participants will have to work in languages other than their national ones.

A presidium of 12 members will lead the discussion, headed by former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, while former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene were named vice-presidents of the Convention. The other nine members of the Presidium will be two national MP’s, two members of the European Parliament, two representatives of the Commission and one representative from Spain, Denmark and Greece, as these three countries hold the EU presidency under rotations for each half a year while the Convention is working.

Each of the 28 countries will appoint three representatives in the Convention (two national MPs and one representative of the government), the European Parliament will appoint 16 members in the Convention and the Commission will send two.

A seperate Forum will be opened for organisations representing civil society to debate the future of the EU, while an Intergovernmental Conference will take the final decisions on revision of the EU treaties, where the EU member states decide by unanimity what is to change.

German MEP Jo Leinen and Spanish MEP Iñigo Mendez de Vigo, the two rapporteurs for the European Parliament's report on the future of the EU, welcomed the conclusions reached with regards to the Convention. Mr Leinen told reporters in Laeken: "The Laeken declaration is a milestone for two reasons," said Mr Leinen. "First of all, it is the first time since the creation of the Union 50 years ago that the creation of a European Constitution has been accepted by all member states, whereas before the future of Europe was always laid out in EU treaties. Secondly, the next round of treaty reforms is to be undertaken via a Convention for the first time, rather than in an IGC."

However, Mr Leinen also noted one or two points which he was not happy with in the final version of the Laeken declaration.

First of all, Mr Leinen would have liked to have seen a more concrete timetable proposed. Although the declaration implicitly suggests that the Convention will complete its work within one and a half years, because representatives of the next three presidencies (each lasting six months) are included on the Presidium, Mr Leinen notes that no fixed date is mentioned. "The date of June 2003 was included in the draft declaration," said Mr Leinen. "But it has been taken out of the final version, so presumably some people wanted it removed."

Mr Leinen also expressed disappointment that elected parliaments were not better represented in the Convention. The proportion of parliaments is the same as in the last Convention, when there were only 15 members. In this Convention, there will be 28 members, including the accession countries, although the candidate countries will not have any power to vote.

MEP Jens-Peter Bonde from the Danish June Movement called for the Convention to come up with at least two different proposals for the future of the European Union to be put for referendums in each of the countries.

However the way the president of the Convention was appointed at the Laeken summit did not look promising for the future, Mr Bonde said and explained that there had in reality been a deal between Germany and France. The convention that worked out the Charter of Fundamental Rights last year was lead by a German, so someone from France should then chair this Convention. The British was simply forced to accept this French-German deal, Mr Bonde said.

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