Parliament to give green light for IGC

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The European Parliament is expected to give the go-ahead for the ‘Reform Treaty’ mandate, despite criticism concerning the large number of exemptions and footnotes in the draft text agreed by EU leaders at the June Summit.

The Parliament will vote on a report by Socialist MEP and Constitutional Affairs Committee Chairman Jo Leinen on the IGC in plenary on 11 July. The plenary is expected to give a strong backing to the mandate, following the overwhelmingly positive response to the outcome of the June Summit (EURACTIV 28/06/07).

The draft report welcomes the fact that the substance of the draft EU Constitution has been preserved, especially the granting of a legal personality to the EU, the extension of qualified majority voting to the areas of defence, social security and fiscal policy, the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the reference to energy and climate change.

However, the text laments the dropping of elements, such as the reference to the EU’s symbols, a statement referring to EU law primacy and the renaming of EU legislation. The report also criticises the increased number of exemptions granted to member states.

The Parliament will also look at the issue of a new seat distribution, on which it is expected to present a proposal in October.

Three representatives of the Parliament’s leading political groups are to represent the European assembly at the IGC opening on 23-24 July. Elmar Brok (EPP-ED) and Enrique Baron Crespo (Socialist group) have already been named by their groups.

Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering said: "The Parliament is the directly elected representative of the EU’s citizens and as such, insists on being appropriately involved in and represented at all levels of negotiations at the prospective IGC."

"The balance is generally positive, yet it was a partial failure," said Elmar Brok, MEP from the EPP-ED group. He added that he regretted that the text was "more complex than the Constitution", making it less transparent for the people.

Socialist MEP Enrique Baron Crespo said: "It is important that we believe that the reform process is on-going." However he further cautioned the parliament to pay attention to the details. "Just changing a single word can be crucial," he added.

"Despite complications, the outcome at the end of the IGC will be a stronger Union, with greater capacity to act," Liberal MEP Andrew Duff commented.

Eurosceptic MEP Jens-Peter Bonde (Independence/ Democracy group) stated: "The Merkel deal is impossible. If you succeed in ratification your name will for always be linked to an EU which cannot be understood by the public." He called for the new Treaty to be put to a Europe-wide referendum.

Conservative MEPs are stepping up the pressure to hold a referendum. Conservative MEP Mark Francois argues that the new Treaty "brings back virtually the entire failed EU Constitution including an EU President, an EU Foreign Secretary (in all but name), a single legal personality for the EU, and the abandonment of 60 national vetoes".

At the June Summit in Brussels, EU heads of state and government agreed on a detailed mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) putting the Union on track for institutional reform. The Reform Treaty is intended to help the EU overcome the two-year institutional impasse following the French and Dutch 'No' votes on the draft EU Constitution in 2005.

The Parliament, which needs to state its opinion before the IGC can go ahead, had earlier threatened to block the IGC if its mandate failed to preserve the key elements of the draft EU Constitution (EURACTIV 07/06/07).

  • 10 July: Commission gives its position on the IGC.
  • 11 July: Parliament adopts its opinion on the IGC.
  • 23 July: Launch of the IGC at the EU Foreign Ministers' meeting.
  • 18 Oct.: Tentative date for the closing of the IGC at the informal meeting of heads of state and government in Lisbon.

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