European Constitution

The 105-member European Convention signed the
draft EU Constitution on 10 July 2003, concluding 16 months of
work.

Simplification of the Treaties was one
of the key objectives of the Convention. A simplified
constitutional treaty should help to render the EU more
understandable for its citizens, and the responsibilities
of those involved in the decision-making process more
clearly established.

Currently, the EU is governed by
several treaties that have been revised during its
50-year history. The three original Treaties founding the
European Communities were the Treaty establishing the
European Community, the Treaty establishing the Atomic
Energy Community and the Treaty establishing the European
Coal and Steel Community. They were followed by the
Single Act, the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of
Maastricht), the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Treaty of
Nice, which entered into force on 1 February 2003.

In addition, the Treaty of Maastricht
created a new entity, the European Union, with a
three-pillar structure: the Community pillar
(corresponding to the three Community Treaties), the
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) pillar and the
justice and home affairs (JHA) pillar.

The Treaty of Amsterdam transferred to
the Community pillar part of the activities covered by
the third pillar, which is now limited to judicial and
police cooperation in criminal matters. The main
characteristics of the second and third pillars are
decision-making procedures and instruments of action
which are more intergovernmental in nature than the
Community method.

Other EU primary legislation
comprises:

  • Accession Treaties;
  • Acts or Decisions (for example, Decisions relating
    to the location of the seats of institutions or other
    bodies, or the Act concerning the election of
    representatives of the European Parliament by direct
    universal suffrage);
  • around 40 Protocols having the value of
    Treaties;
  • many Joint or unilateral Declarations accompanying
    each Treaty.

 

The
Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for
Europe

, adopted by the European Convention in Brussels on 10
July 2003, consists of the following parts:

  • Preamble
  • Part I:
    • Title I: Definition and objectives of the
      Union
    • Title II: Fundamental rights and citizenship of
      the Union
    • Title III: Union competences
    • Title IV: The Union's institutions
    • Title V: Exercise of Union competence
    • Title VI: The democratic life of the Union
    • Title VII: The Union's finances
    • Title VIII: The Union and its immediate
      environment
    • Title IX: Union membership
  • Part II: The charter of funda mental rights of the
    Union
  • Part III: The policies and functioning of the
    Union
  • Title I - Clauses of general application
  • Title II - Non-discrimination and citizenship
  • Title III - Internal policies and action
  • Title IV - Association of overseas countries and
    territories
  • Title V - External action of the Union
  • Title VI - The functioning of the union
  • Title VII - Common provisions
  • Annex I: Protocol amending the Euratom Treaty
  • Annex II: Protocol on the euro group
  • Annex III: Declaration on the creation of a
    European External Action Service
  • Part IV: General and final provisions

The main changes introduced by the new
Constitution are:

  • The Preamble refers to the cultural, religious and
    humanist inheritance of Europe.
  • The EU will have a
    single legal personality

    , allowing it to sign international treaties.

  • The
    European Parliament

    's size shall not exceed 732 members. Representation of
    European citizens shall be degressively proportional,
    with a minimum threshold of four members per Member
    State.

  • The European
    Council

    shall elect its
    president

    for up to five years (two possible mandates of 2.5
    years) to chair summits and drive forward its work. The
    president will replace the present six-month rotating
    presidency.

  • The
    presidency of Council formations

    , other than that of Foreign Affairs, shall be held by
    Member States on the basis of equal rotation for
    periods of at least a year.

  • From 2009 onward, the
    Commission

    shall consist of its president, the minister for
    foreign affairs/vice-president and 13 commissioners
    selected on the basis of a system of equal rotation
    between the Member States. The Commission president
    shall appoint non-voting commissioners coming from all
    other Member States. Until 2009, every Member State
    will have one commissioner.

  • A new
    minister for foreign affairs

    shall conduct the Union's common foreign and defence
    policy, sitting in the Commission with access to its
    resources but answerable to Member States. He/she will
    be appointed by the European Council with approval from
    the Commission.

  • Member States may create, by unanimous decision, a
    European public prosecutor

    to combat cross-border crime and terrorism.

  • Most decisions will be taken by
    majority vote

    . The European Parliament's role in decision-making
    will be nearly doubled. National veto will be preserved
    in a few politically sensitive areas, such as taxation
    and foreign policy.

  • From 2009, decisions will be taken by
    double majority

    , representing at least half of the Member States and
    60 per cent of the Union's total population. Until
    2009, the complicated Nice Treaty rules will
    apply.

  • Under a new solidarity clause, Member States will
    provide
    mutual assistance

    in case of terrorist attack.

  • Member States will be able to subscribe to a
    mutual defence clause

    .

  • Members of the
    Economic and Monetary Union

    will be able to set their own economic policy
    guidelines and enforce eurozone rules, without
    involvement from non-euro countries.

  • Introduction of a referendum: a minimum of
    one million EU citizens

    will have the right to demand from the Commission to
    submit a proposal on matters on which they believe the
    Union should act.

  • A new
    exit clause

    will allow Member States to leave the Union.

  • The Union will have its
    official symbols

    : flag (blue background with 12 yellow stars in a
    circle), anthem (Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy'), motto
    ('United in diversity'), currency and Europe Day (9
    May).

  • A new Convention will have to be convened for
    revising the Constitution

    . Should the changes proposed be minor in nature, the
    European Parliament is to give its approval to a
    decision not to convene a Conv ention. The principle of
    unanimity in Council remains unchanged.

  • The
    'open method of coordination'

    , while not explicitly mentioned, is suggested for a
    number of areas: social policy, research, health policy
    and industrial competitiveness. The aim is to encourage
    Member States to coordinate their actions voluntarily,
    without having to resort to Community legislation.

  • A specific provision has been added on the
    'cultural exception'

    in international trade agreements. Decisions on such
    agreements are normally to be made by qualified
    majority voting, but the text now states that the
    Council shall 'act unanimously for the negotiation and
    conclusion of agreements in the field of trade in
    cultural and audiovisual services, where these risk
    prejudicing the Union's cultural and linguistic
    diversity'.

  • A new
    European External Action Service

    will be created to support the work of the future EU
    Foreign Minister.

  • Veto will be kept for decisions on foreign policy
    and taxation and Member States will continue to set
    national quotas for immigration.
  • For
    Euratom

    , the draft introduces a legal separation between the
    Constitution and the Euratom Treaty.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing handed the final
draft over the the Italian Presidency of the EU on 18
July to serve as a starting point for the
Inter-Governmental Conference.

 

An inter-governmental conference (IGC)
was launched by the Italian Presidency of the EU on 4
October. The IGC is scheduled to run until mid-December
2003.

The EU plans to sign its new
Constitution before the June 2004 elections for the
European Parliament.

The Constitution must be ratified by
all the EU Member States and the European Parliament.

The goal is for the Constitution to
come into force in 2005, but some provisions would only
go into effect in 2009.  

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