Barnier: Convention should present options rather than a single proposal

Diverging views on the Convention on the future of the EU surfaced at the meeting of the Constitutional Affairs Committee with Commissioner Barnier on 19 November. Giorgio Napolitano, the chairman of the Committee, voiced concern about the lack of a clear position from the Commission on the Convention just a few weeks before the summit – especially since certain governments may try to diminish the Commission’s role.

Mr Barnier’s view on the mandate and workings of the Convention can be summarised as follows:

  • the Convention should elaborate a range of courageous ‘options’ (some with majority backing), rather than a single text based on the lowest common denominator;
  • the debate should involve civil society and local authorities and move beyond a “small coterie of experts”;
  • a six-month pause between the end of the Convention and the IGC would be useful to give ‘time to digest, but not forget, the findings’ of the Convention.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee, on the other hand, believes a six-month period between the Convention and the IGC would be too long. It is in favour of a single proposal, rather than a series of options.

The committee believes that the work of the Convention should focus on the following issues:

  • simplification of the treaties;
  • a more precise delimitation of competencies between the EU and the Member States;
  • the role of national parliaments;
  • the status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • deal with the indifference of citizens towards Europe.

Mr Barnier announced that a paper would be published on the Convention before the Laeken summit.

 

EU Commissioner for Regional Policy and Intergovernmental Conferences (IGC) Michel Barnier will most likely represent the European Commission at the Convention preparing the next IGC on the reform of the treaties. He will also be a member of the presidium of five people, who will steer the Convention's work.

The President of the Convention will be appointed by the European Council (not by the Convention itself, as MEPs wanted) in Laeken on 14-15 December. The Convention will be composed of: 16 MEPs; 15 members of EU governments; 2 MPs from each national parliament. The candidate countries will have observer status, as will the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee (2 members each).

 

The Convention will most likely take place from March 2002 until June 2003, and will be followed by an Intergovernmental Conference.

 

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