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Article by Prof. Romano Prodi on “The European Convention: bringing the EU closer to its citizens” for eu2003.gr

Romano Prodi
“The European Convention: bringing the EU closer to its citizens”


by Prof. Romano Prodi,
President of European Commission


The work of the European Convention is now complete. The approach adopted by the Convention has proved its effectiveness, for the first time enabling the full range of European and national view points to be heard in a broad-based, open and transparent debate.

I am convinced that there are compelling reasons for this approach to be adopted for all new constitutional changes. It is the most open and democratic way of treaty change that we know of.

In assessing the result of the Convention it is important to recall what the Nice and Laeken mandates called for:

• better division and definition of powers in the Union;
• simplification of the Union instruments;
• more democracy, transparency and efficiency.

These are the criteria by which the citizens of Europe will judge the results of the

Good news

In terms of substance, the draft constitutional treaty makes major strides forward with
regard to the Union's new tasks and the institutional architecture:

• the integration of the Charter of fundamental rights into the constitutional treaty will ensure that citizens’ rights are protected more effectively;

• conferring a single legal personality on the Union will enable it to take on a higher profile internationally;

• the drafting of a single constitutional treaty and the elimination of the different pillars will make the EU’s work and the exercise of its responsibilities easier to understand and more transparent for citizens;

• the generalisation – with a few rare exceptions – of the legislative procedure for the adoption of European laws will strengthen the Union’s democratic legitimacy and openness; the clarification of the Union's powers will enable citizens to distinguish more clearly between the Union’s responsibilities and those of its Member States, while preserving the flexibility of the Community system;

• the progress made in establishing an area of freedom, security and justice will enable the Community method to be applied to this key sector

• the new provisions on the common foreign and security policy, together with the creation of an EU Foreign Affairs Minister, will help to enhance the Union’s role on the international stage;
• the provisions on defense will make it possible to improve military capabilities and will enable those Member States which are willing and able to do so to engage in structured cooperation that will strengthen the credibility of the EU’s foreign policy.

But some clouds

But there are still shortcomings on some important matters. It is to be expected that the compromises made do not fully satisfy any member of the Convention – that is meritable in any negotiations. I have to conclude that the result is not always as ambitious as I would have liked it to be.

• Qualified majority voting has been extended to far more areas than in the present Treaty, but it is still not sufficient for the needs of an enlarged Union with thirty or so members for the next thirty years. The Commission regards it as essential that the unanimity requirement be lifted at once in other areas too.
• The institutional balance and the clarification of the role of the institutions are still unsatisfactory. First of all, the composition of the Commission could well hamper the operation of the institution, with one Commissioner of each nationality and with a difference in status as only fifteen Commissioners have the right to vote. Second, the creation of a more permanent President of the European Council may well upset the institutional balance and cause some duplication with the role of the Commission.
• The progress made on economic governance and external representation of the euro is inadequate. The Member States sharing the same currency must be allowed to take decisions together by the Community method.
• Finally the Commission regrets that the Convention has not inserted in the Treaty a revision clause which would allow certain provisions of the Constitution to be amended by a reinforced majority procedure, without having to go through new national ratification procedures.

I will do what I can to secure improvements to the draft constitutional treaty on these points at the Intergovernmental Conference.

I do believe that the draft constitutional treaty is a good basis for the work of the Intergovernmental Conference.

All the same, much still has to be done on Part III of the Constitution, dealing with policies. The Convention did not have time for anything more than drafting alterations in adapting the Union's policies to the challenge of enlargement. I will make proposals on this subject to the Intergovernmental Conference.



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