Portugal holds firm on EU Treaty mandate

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The Portuguese EU Presidency has vowed to stick a hard-won June agreement to draft an EU Reform Treaty, amid concerns that Poland might ask to reopen discussions on voting rights in the Council.

Presenting the Portuguese Presidency’s programme to the European Parliament on 11 July, Prime Minister José Socrates underlined that agreeing on a new EU Treaty text by mid-October was his top priority. Socrates was keen to emphasise that he does not want any further changes to the current IGC mandate, in particular alluding to Poland’s desire to reopen parts of the deal that was clinched in June.

“The agreement reached at the European Council gives a clear and precise mandate. We are now in a position to move forward. One thing is clear to me. Our mandate is not to change the mandate, but to turn the mandate into a Treaty,” Socrates stated before the Parliament.

Speaking at a press conference, he added: “I don’t expect any problems from any member state, especially Poland. I expect full commitment from everyone to get a new Treaty as soon as possible.”

Socrates was backed by Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who said: “It is inconceivable that an agreement that was achieved unanimously should be reopened.”

Socrates said: “I move forward with confidence and hope. And that confidence flows from the knowledge that the key institutions, the key political players, are of one mind in terms of setting up an ambitious but realistic programme, which will seek to endow Europe with a better capacity to act.”

A first draft Treaty based on the IGC mandate will be circulated by the Portuguese Presidency on 23 July, when the IGC opens. Portugal is favourable to having a ‘Lisbon Treaty’ coming from the IGC.

The Parliament gave the go-ahead for the opening of the IGC in a plenary vote on 11 July 2007.

Elmar Brok, rapporteur and member of the IGC from the EPP-ED group, called for full application of the IGC's negotiation mandate. He said: "The task of the Intergovernmental Conference must be to fully apply this mandate, without any additions or revisions, as fast as possible." He added: "The agreement to extend the co-decision procedure to more than 90% of all policy areas will lead to more direct representation of European citizens via the European Parliament."

Socialist MEP and Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee President Jo Leinen criticised the UK's opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights. He also asked for more transparency during the IGC and demanded that all documents be made public.

Liberal MEP Andrew Duff urged: "We must ensure that the growing number of opt outs does not contaminate the integrity of the corpus of EU law and jurisdiction. We will fight to prevent any political spillover, especially from the UK Protocol on the Charter." He added that there should be "maximum transparency" within the IGC with the help of increased Parliamentary involvement.

GUE/NGL group MEP Francis Wurtz  criticised EU leaders for "taking such efforts to avoid citizens being too closely involved with this unidentified institutional object" and called for an EU-wide referendum on the new Treaty.

The Conservatives in the Parliament renewed their call for a referendum on the EU Treaty in the UK. Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope said: "The British people were promised a referendum on the Constitution by Tony Blair three years ago. Our new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has a moral obligation to deliver on that promise."

In June, EU heads of state and government agreed on a detailed mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to reform the EU's institutions. The 'Reform Treaty' seeks to overcome a two-year institutional impasse following the French and Dutch 'No' votes on the proposed EU Constitution in 2005.

  • 23-14 July: The Portuguese Presidency will open the IGC at the General Affairs and External Relations Council Meeting.
  • 18-19 Oct.: The Presidency seeks to obtain an agreement on the ‘Reform Treaty’ during the informal European Council in Lisbon.

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