Spain and Luxembourg renew push for EU Constitution

Ministers are seeking an enriched text for the European Constitution, as the German Presidency seeks a compromise among member states.

At the committee meeting on Constitutional Affairs on 28 February 2007, Parliamentarians pleaded for a “Constitution plus”. The committee president, Jo Leinen said: “For us there is no plan B, there is only a plan A+”. Leinen welcomed the idea to enrich the current text instead of reducing it to a “Mini-Treaty”.

Spanish Secretary of State for European affairs Alberto Navarro and Luxembourgish European Affairs Minister Nicolas Schmit, initiators of the “friends of the Constitution”, joined the parliamentarians and restated their message, saying that the current text should be preserved.

Some committee members argued that the rejection of the Constitutional text by two member states (France and the Netherlands) did not necessarily mean that the text should be scrapped. Especially since more than two-thirds of member states and thus the majority of the European population have agreed to it

In return it was proposed to complement the current text with elements that could help the EU better to respond to the challenges it currently faces, such as environmental issues, climate change, energy, global competition and immigration.

However, some Eurosceptic committee members argued against the Constitutional Treaty and criticised “its lack of democratic legitimacy”.

French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy said: "The top priority of our international policy is to resolve the European institutional crisis initiated by the Dutch and French 'No'."

Spanish Secretary of State for European affairs Alberto Navarro said: "We represented 60% of the EU population and the majority of the member states: we felt we had the legitimate right to meet." He recommended convening an intergovernmental conference to end the impasse and added: "The idea is to have it before the summer, with a clear mandate on which points we want to look at."

Luxembourgish European Affairs Minister Nicolas Schmit explained that the Madrid meeting "did not intend to divide Europe, but show that we share the desire to maintain the substance of the treaty".

Committee President Jo Leinen, of the Parliament's Socialist group underlined that "we can all gain from the Constitution. Instead the costs of a non-Constitution are very high."

Elmar Brok of the European People’s Party stressed the importance of two elements: making the EU ready to face its challenges and improving democratic legitimacy. He spoke out in favour of a "Constitution plus" and pointed out the possibility of having an additional declaration on social issues and solidarity.

Green group member Johannes Voggenhuber said: "The citizens want more Europe, not less." He criticised the German presidency's method of consulting with member states behind closed doors, excluding citizens.

Eurosceptic MEP Jens-Peter Bonde predicted that since the current method lacked in transparency and failed to consult the people, the new text "will be rejected again". He said that the only solution was to hold a European-wide referendum on the same day in order to get the people's verdict.

Liberal MEP Andrew Duff evoked the possibility of including new provisions in several fields, such as asylum policy, as well as security and defence policies.

Christian Democrat MEP Alexander Stubb categorised the current views among member states as "avant garde" composed of the 18 that have ratified the text, the "friends of the Constitution", adding Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark, the "friends in foe" France and the Netherlands, and "friends that need help", naming the Czech Republic, Poland and the UK.

Stubb argued that a Mini-Treaty would be the "worst solution" and argued in favour of adding elements in the areas of social Europe, energy, climate change and immigration.

Following the failed referenda on the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands in 2005, the EU has found itself in crisis. Up until now, the so-called "period of reflection" has not brought about a solution satisfactory to all parties.

So far, 18 of the 27 EU member states have ratified the Constitutional Treaty. On 26 January 2007 the 18 member states and Portugal and Ireland, under the heading "friends of the Constitution" came together to defend the substance of the current text and pleaded for a "Maxi-Treaty" (see EURACTIV 26/01/2007).

The German Presidency intends to present a road map at the June Council. The presidency seeks an agreement on a text by 2008, which should be ratified before the European elections in 2009. According to the presidency, the final text is likely to be "a compromise at the lowest common denominator".

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