EP study day opposes ideas for a permanent EU Presidency

Members of the European Parliament discussed how to reform the EU Presidency system with three leading experts on 18 February. All experts voiced strong opposition to a permanent Presidency of the Council.

In addition to discussing previous proposals made in the context of the Convention, the panel and MEPs discussed the three questions underlying all suggestions made for a future EU Presidency:

  • ways to establish a genuine European government
  • the possible election of the Commission President by the EP
  • the necessity of a full-time Council presidency

 

All three speakers dismissed the Franco-German proposal of a permanent President of the Council, and offered their opinions on future possibilities with regard to the Presidency.

According toMr. Sutherland, an appointed Council Presidency for a term up to five years would severly damage the institutional balance and the independence of the Commission. He agreed with positions outlined in a recent publication by the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) according to which the Commission must remain central to the development of the Union. He felt proposals to elect a Council President would also be counterproductive, because it would make the EU institutions less democratic and accountable, rather than more so, as such a system would lack the checks and balances of the current system. While he agreed that reform of the rotating Presidency was necessary, he stressed the positive impact it has had on Member State capitals and Europe's citizens who take pride in holding the EU Presidency.

Mr. de Schoutheetewas firmly against the idea of a symbolic president, and spoke out in favour of merging the position of High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, with that of the External Affairs Commissioner, to give Europe a single foreign policy representative. He favoured the idea of a rotating Member State presidency of the Council, but underlined that a greater continuity of the presidency's work must be assured, perhaps through extending the length of the presidencies.

Mr. Menysaid he would prefer to see the President of the Commission as the Union's international representative and proposed a joint Presidency of five states for a period of two and a half years for the Council, to ensure a more realistic perspective with regard to the large work agenda attributed to a Presidency.

Members of the European Parliament, especially Committee chairman

Giorgio Neapolitano (PES, I)agreed with the speakers that the EU needed a single representative in international affairs. Referencing a frequently-cited quote by former US Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger on not knowing 'who to call' when he wanted to speak to Europe, Mr. Napolitano said "we must not remain the slaves of a joke when defining the institutional architecture of Europe."

 

Members of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament discussed various suggestions made on the future of the European Presidency in a study day on 18 February. Speakers included former European Commissioner and current Chairman of BP, Peter Sutherland, former permanent representative of Belgium to the EU, Philippe de Schoutheete and Yves Meny, President of the European University Institute (EUI). Issues for discussion centered around proposals made as part of the European Convention on the Future of Europe, particularly the latest Franco-German outline for an EU Presidency (seeEURACTIV 13 January 2003,15 January 2003, and16 January 2003)

 

  • 27 February 2003: The Constitutional Affairs Committee will hold a discussion on the Franco-German proposal with German foreign secret ary Joschka Fischer and his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin

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