Iraq crisis takes a toll on EU reform

Growing rift among the European governments over the Iraq crisis has contributed to a delay in the drafting of the EU constitution. The Convention President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing stated at the plenary session on 17 March that it might not be possible to present a draft to the European Council in Thessaloniki on 20-21 June 2003.

Such a delay would put in danger the planned adoption of the new Constitutional Treaty by EU leaders at the European Council in Rome in December 2003. Mr Giscard conceded that the mandate of the Convention may have to be extended by three months, until the end of September.

Mr Giscard said that the Convention cannot address the topic of common EU foreign policy as long as the situation is not clear. The EU Member States are currently split down the middle by their disagreement over the way to handle the Iraq crisis. It is possible that the meeting of EU leaders with Mr Giscard, planned for 20 March, will be called off in case war starts in Iraq.

On 17 March, the Convention discussed three new proposals drafted by the Praesidium, dealing with the EU’s finances, justice and home affairs, and common policies.

The proposal on the Area of freedom, security and justice (draft Article 31, which is part of Title V of the draft Constitutional Treaty dealing with legal instruments and EU competencies) makes the following recommendations:

  • this area is to be made up of four policies: asylum and immigration, judicial co-operation in civil cases, criminal judicial co-operation and police co-operation;
  • the Commission is to have a right of initiative in this area;
  • the European Court of Justice is to exercise complete judicial control;
  • a post of European public prosecutor is to be created within Eurojust (the judicial component of Europol) to tackle cross-border crime and fraud;
  • decisions are to be taken by qualified majority and in co-decision with the European Parliament in the areas of asylum and immigration and judicial co-operation in civil cases;
  • co-operation on border controls is to be improved;
  • a standing committee on internal security is to be set up within the Council to co-ordinate police, customs and civil protection co-operation.

 

The Convention PresidentGiscard d'Estaingbelieves that a constitution that the EU may be based upon for the next 50 years, deserves a special European Council that might be held in October or November.

Four Member States (Denmark, Finland, Great Britain and Sweden) and six candidate countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia) have called for a "reflexion period" between the end of the Convention and the start of the Intergovernmental conference to be able to discuss the Convention's proposals.

The 10 future Member States demand that the Constitutional Treaty should not be signed before they become EU members on 1 May 2004.

 

The European Convention is meeting on 17 and 18 March to discuss:

  • the EU's finances,
  • freedom, security and justice,
  • draft Articles 24-33,
  • draft Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality,
  • draft Protocol on role of national parliaments.

 

The next meeting of the Convention is on 26 March.

Leaders of seven smaller Member States - Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and The Netherlands - planned to meet in Brussels on 19 March to discuss a common position in the Convention (

see EURACTIV of 14 March 2003). The meeting was postponed due to the Iraq crisis.

Convention President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing will discuss the progress in the Convention with EU Member States leaders at the Spring European Council on 20-21 March.

The Convention is to present its draft of the new Constitutional Treaty to EU leaders at the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003.

The Intergovernmental conference, consisting of EU Heads of State and Government, is to adopt the new Constitutional Treaty at the Rome Summit in December 2003.

 

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