Benelux countries insist on rotating EU Presidency

In a joint position on EU institutional reform,
the three Benelux countries have called for the maintaining of
the rotating EU Presidency. Belgium, the Netherlands and
Luxembourg have also proposed a two-tier Commission, consisting
of 15 fully-fledged Commissioners and several assistant
Commissioners without voting rights.

On 5 May, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg presented
their joint position on the Union’s institutional
architecture to the European Convention in response to the
proposal by the Convention’s Praesidium.

The main points of the Benelux proposal

  • The European Parliament elects the Commission
  • The Council takes decisions by qualified majority,
    which consists of a majority of Member States
    representing at least 60 percent of the Union’s
  • The General Affairs Council, chaired by the President
    of the Commission, ensures the continuity and coherence
    of the Council’s activities and prepares the work of the
    European Council;
  • The Foreign Affairs Council, chaired by the EU
    Foreign Minister, prepares and adopts the Union’s foreign
    policy as defined by the European Council;
  • The European Council meets every three months and
    takes decisions by unanimity.
  • The Council is to be presided by all Member States
    taking turns every six months;
  • The Commission is to consist of maximum 15
    Commissioners, assisted by the same number of Assistant
    Commissioners. Each Member State cannot have more than
    one Commissioner. Commissioners are to be appointed by
    rotation, based on the principle of equality of all
    Member States. The Commission is to take decisions by the
    majority of Commissioners. Assistant Commissioners cannot
  • The Foreign Ministers of one of the Vice-President of
    the Commission. He/She is to be responsible for the
    Union’s external relations and the security and defence


In its position on the Union's institutional reform, the

expressed its opposition to proposals by the Convention
Praesidium to create a full-time EU President and insisted
that there should be one Commissioner per Member State (see




The Convention's Praesidium proposed on 24 April that the
EU should have a full-time President and Foreign Minister,
that the Commission's size should be reduced to 15 members,
that a Congress of national and EU parliamentarians is to
be set up, and the a double majority of Member States and
60 percent of population should be used as a rule for
qualified majority voting (see
April 2003


The institutional reform was first
discussed by the EU leaders at the Summit in Athens on 16
April, where 18 of the 25 current and future members of the
Union rejected the idea of a permanent president. However,
the larger countries which supported the idea represent a
majority of the EU population (

see EURACTIV of 17
April 2003



The institutional reform will be discussed by the
Convention at its next plenary session on 15 and 16 May

The Convention is due to present its
draft of a future EU Constitutional Treaty to the European
Council of Thessaloniki on 20 June 2003.

The future Constitutional Treaty will be
adopted by the EU leaders at an intergovernmental
conference starting under the Italian Presidency of the
Council in the second half of 2003.


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