PART 1: introduction
1. The Praesidium of the Convention on the Future
of Europe has published Draft Articles of the proposed Constitutional
Treaty concerned with the Institutions. Our Committee
has been commenting on the Draft Articles as they have emerged
from the Praesidium, with a view to making short reports to the
House for information in advance of the Plenary debate in the
Convention on the relevant Articles. This report falls into that
sequence. The Committee will continue to keep the work of the
Convention under review, and will in particular scrutinise the
final output of the Convention in advance of the forthcoming IGC.
Printed with this report is evidence we took from Peter Hain,
the Government's representative on the Convention.
2. The Laeken declaration
set the direction on the debate on the future of Europe, clearly
describing aspirations and posing questions to be answered through
a Convention made up of the main parties involved in the debate.
Laeken set high ideals, stating that the EU derives its legitimacy
not only from its democratic values but also from "democratic,
transparent and efficient institutions". The draft articles
for Title IV of Part I of the Constitution should accordingly
be expected to increase the democratic legitimacy and transparency
of the current institutions, improve the efficiency of decision
making, and also address the role of national parliaments.
3. Title IV of Part I of the Constitutional
Treaty will redefine the competences of the main European institutions
in an attempt to clarify the Union's inter-institutional balance.
This has led to a number of proposals on the institutions, focusing
on the balance of power between the Council, the Commission and
the Parliament in particular. France and Germany issued a joint
contribution to the Convention on the Union's institutional structure
before the Convention plenary debate on the institutions on 20
and 21 January 2003.
At the end of February 2003, Peter Hain made a joint contribution
with his Spanish counterpart Ana Palacio to the Convention entitled
'The Union institutions'.
4. The key elements of the Franco-German proposal
of Commission President by qualified majority vote by European
Parliament, approved by the European Council by QMV;
Commission President would construct the College of Commissioners
which would be appointed by the Council by QMV;
of one person as President of the European Council for 5 year
term or 2.5 year renewable term by QMV in the European Parliament,
approved by the European Council by QMV;
- This Council President would be responsible for
preparing, presiding over and giving impetus to the European Council's
work on the overall strategy of the EU (together with the Commission)
and defining the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP);
Council President would represent the Union on the international
scene at meetings with Heads of State and Government;
would be a 'double-hatted' Foreign Policy representative attached
to the Council, but with a presence in the Commission: this Foreign
Policy Representative would have a formal right of initiative
in the CFSP;
possibility of a European Congress bringing together representatives
from the EP and national parliaments once a year to adopt resolutions
or recommendations only.
5. The key elements of the UK-Spanish proposal
President appointed by QMV in the European Council, approved by
the European Parliament;
'chair' of the European Council appointed for four years;
responsible for presiding over European Council meetings, ensuring
follow-up of decisions taken there by chairing General Affairs
Council, adding profile to the external representation of the
EU and informing EP of work;
Council Presidency consisting of a team of Member States. The
share of 'portfolios' within the team could be fixed in advance.
Each member of a four member team chairs two Ministerial Councils
for six months, so that over two years they chair the different
of European Parliament power through broader application of co-decision
procedure and QMV in the Council;
of Foreign Affairs who chairs External Relations meetings, participates
in the Commission meetings and has a formal right of initiative
in the CFSP;
of European Congress bringing together representatives from the
EP and national parliaments once a year to adopt resolutions or
effective division of labour between the Court of Justice, the
Court of First Instance and the judicial panels foreseen in the
Treaty of Nice. The ECJ should only handle the most important
6. While there are differences between these
proposals, the broad thrust is the same: the Council should be
granted greater continuity through a reform of the six-monthly
presidencies. Both proposals would strengthen the role of the
7. Seven of the smaller Member States developed
a 'common voice' on these issues in preparation for the spring
European Council on 21 March 2003. By the Athens Council on 16
April 2003, 16 of the smaller current and future Member States
had signed up to a paper entitled Reforming the institutions:
Principles and Premises.
This calls for maintaining and reinforcing the Community method
and takes a firm stand against "any arrangements which sought
to establish a hierarchy of Member States", and against the
establishing of a permanent Council President which the smaller
States see as likely to be a former leader of large Member State
who would only take large Member State interests into account.
To prevent this, the small countries want to maintain the current
six-month rotating Presidency.
8. The paper also calls for a merging of the
foreign policy posts held by the External Relations Commissioner
and the EU foreign policy High Representative. This (the paper
argues) would be "seen as highly significant and strengthening
the coherence and visibility of the Union's external projection
and coherence." The small countries also propose that the
Commission President be elected by "a joint electoral college"
made up of European and national parliaments. The signatories
also call for one commissioner per country to be maintained "provided
there is full equality."
9. Sweden, Denmark and Poland have not made
a clear commitment to any particular proposals although the Government
counts on their support for the strengthening of the Council.
10. Articles14 to 23 on the institutions and
a new Article X were published by the Convention Praesidium on
23 April 2003. In the sections that follow we consider the implications
of the proposed articles for the three key institutions, indicating,
where we can, the position of the United Kingdom Government and
giving our own comments on the proposed Articles.
11. We make this report to the House for
information. We stress, however, that it is clear that the balance
of power in the European Union is going to shift from the Commission
in favour of the Member States if the proposals here are adopted.
This makes it all the more important that the Treaty makes adequate
1 See Appendix. Back
References in the form (Q00) are to that evidence. Back
14 December 2001 http://ue.eu.int/Newsroom/related.asp?max=1&bid=76&grp=4061&lang=1 Back
CONV 489/03. Back
CONV 591/03. Back
CONV 646/03. Back