EU leaders were scrambling to reach agreement over a draft mandate for institutional reform at a summit on 22 June. A Polish veto threat over voting rights in the Council and British ‘red lines’ on labour law, justice and other issues remained the main obstacles on the way to a deal.
The draft IGC mandate circulated by the German Presidency ahead of the Summit sets out the main elements of institutional reform. The Reform Treaty is to amend the existing Treaties with the aim of “enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the enlarged Union, as well as the coherence of its external action”.
Despite Poland’s efforts to reopen the issue of the Council voting system, there is no explicit mention of it in the draft IGC mandate. However, a footnote refers to the fact that Poland and the Czech Republic would like to change the definition of the qualified majority voting in the Council. It remains to be seen if Poland will make use of its veto.
The text notably bans any indications that would give it a constitutional flavour. This is especially important to countries, which have suffered setbacks from negative referenda, such as France and the Netherlands, but also to those wishing to avoid a referendum, such as the UK. Therefore, the Constitution and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs labels are dropped in the text, along with any mention of EU symbols.
In order to cater for possible member-state objections, the text foresees possible opt outs to closer co-operation in the areas of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and to the treatment of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter is to enter into force through a legally binding cross reference in the Reform Treaty text.
However, the scope of the application of the Charter is yet to be clarified. Ahead of the negotiations, the UK made clear, that it will not accept “anything in a new Treaty that requires us to change our existing labour and social legislation”.
An explicit clause stating the primacy of EU law over national law, as it is already applied since 1963 will be replaced by a declaration on the principles established by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Further, national parliaments will be able to use a “yellow card” against EU legislative texts, which will force the Commission to reconsider its proposal.