MEPs have backed the goal of adopting the shipwrecked EU Constitution by 2009. This should be preceded by a broad public debate.
The Duff-Voggenhuber report, adopted by 385 votes on 19 January, argues that public debates should be organised through a large number of ‘Citizens Forums’ in the member states. This would mean an extension of the ‘reflection period’ beyond the one year agreed in 2005.
The debates should be structured around specific topics involving political parties, employers’ and employees’ representatives, civil society, the academic community and the media. The main themes should be the integration process, the EU’s global role, the European social and economic model, security and justice and the financing of the Union.
While calling for these debates, MEPs also agreed to keep the Constitutional treaty text, which was rejected by voters in France and Netherlands, essentially as it is. However, it should be accompanied by “significant measures that take account of the concerns expressed by France, the Netherlands and others”, said rapporteur Andrew Duff.
The results of the debate and a decision on the way ahead should be taken in the latter half of 2007, which would be after the French presidential elections. The goal would be to have the Constitution in force for 2009.
During the debate, the commissioner responsible for communication, Margot Wallström, said that “it seems reasonable to me to draft the final conclusions in 2007 under the German or Portuguese EU presidency”. She also sought to discourage enhanced co-operation initiatives, which do not include all member states.