Forum in December, summit in January to draft new treaty

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A forum with around 100 delegates is likely to be convened before the end of the year to debate the proposed new intergovernmental treaty – to be signed by all EU member states apart from the UK – EURACTIV has learned.

Meanwhile the heads of state of the Council will meet for another summit either at the end of January or the beginning of February, Council President Herman Van Rompuy said yesterday (15 December) at a press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Van Rompuy said the summit would focus on the fiscal compact and agreement between the eurozone-plus group but also on growth and competition within the EU at large. The eurozone-plus group refers to the 17 countries that share the currency plus those non-eurozone nations willing to go along with new fiscal oversight.

100 delegates to be selected

EU diplomats told EURACTIV that the Council will convene a group of three delegates from each of the eurozone-plus group. The delegates will likely be a legal representative, a politician and an economist.

In addition, three officials from the Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Parliament will be invited, whilst the Council will itself furnish a group of technicians to assist Van Rompuy in the negotiations.

The group is set to meet frequently in Brussels before the final agreement is reached, which Van Rompuy has said will come by early March. [Click here for a new LinksDossier on the treaty change.]

The Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg for its plenary session, responded quickly yesterday (15 December) to an invitation from Van Rompuy designed to address fears expressed by MEPs that they would be frozen out of the negotiations.

Parliament quick off the mark

It appointed Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium; Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), German Christian Democrat Elmar Brock and Roberto Gualtieri of Italy (Socialists and Democrats).

“This is not only about the euro, but about the future of our citizens in a world which is dramatically changing,” said Brok, who has been a representative of the European Parliament in all treaty negotiations since Maastricht. 

The move is intended to try and finalise the draft treaty before the end of January so that leaders can sign it in March, giving them time to clear any necessary local parliamentary debates.

This is one reason why Van Rompuy has asked leaders to ready themselves for a summit in early February, according to officials.

Thomas Wieser, an Austrian Finance Ministry official and new head of the euro working group, has been widely tipped as the leader of the forum. A draft working document for the treaty is scheduled to be circulated among the 26 member states by early next week.

What kind of treaty?

Some diplomats in Brussels said the final draft of the new treaty might not end up to be as ambitious as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted. Having a minimalist treaty would allow a smooth passage through ratification in national parliaments, they said.

The treaty might in the end mention the 'golden rule' obliging signatories to write debt and deficit limits into national constitutions and include automatic sanctions if countries break the rules, diplomats said.

Despite the treaty limitation, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi continued to support the move, calling it the "right way to go".

An agreement to tighten fiscal discipline in the wider EU-27 proved impossible at the 8-9 December EU summit, after UK Prime Minister David Cameron made "unacceptable demands" to exempt London's financial district from financial market regulations.

Faced with a UK veto, EU leaders agreed that a new intergovernmental treaty should tighten fiscal discipline in the eurozone and address the bloc's debt problems.

The treaty will be drafted by March 2012 and opened to ratification by nations outside the 17-member eurozone.

  • End of Dec. 2011: New forum for the intergovernmental agreement will meet.
  • 1 Jan. 2012: Denmark takes over the rotating EU presidency, succeeding Poland.
  • End of Jan. 2012: Van Rompuy will seek to have a draft of the intergovernmental accord agreed.
  • Late Jan./early Feb. 2012: Summit of the European Council.
  • 1-2 March 2012: Next regular EU summit. '17+6' group plus others expected to sign to new intergovernmental treaty putting in place the so-called "fiscal compact".
  • July 2012: Entry into force of the eurozone's permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
  • End 2012: Target date for completing ratification process of new treaty.

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