EU moves from ‘disastrous’ Constitution experiment

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

EU member states have agreed on a blueprint for a new Treaty, rescuing a number of key institutional reforms but amending only the existing EU Framework. Hugo Brady, research fellow at the Centre for European Reform (CER), states that the Treaty is an admission that the enlarged Union has become much more diverse.

Brady sums up the changes that the Reform Treaty will bring on and addresses the caveats of the member states that rejected the Constitution: 

• The Reform Treaty will improve EU co-ordination through a non-executive but full-time permanent president for two and a half years, renewable once; 

• the new function of High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security will merge the current foreign policy representatives but not replace the national foreign ministers; 

• the EU will furthermore move to double majority voting, but only by 2017 instead of the planned 2009 as a result of a “ferocious row” with Poland; 

• a strengthening of the European institutions will take place through the extension of qualified majority voting in 39 areas, including cross-border crime and policing, and; 

• the role of national parliaments is strengthened as well through the allocation of voting power concerning EU law proposed by the Commission. 

Brady also stresses the legally binding character of the EU’s charter on fundamental rights and the single legal identity that the EU became for signing international treaties. Lastly, he emphasises that member states can now leave the EU if they so wish. 

To complete the overview, Brady sums up what Britain, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland and the Czech Republic gained during the negotiations. He stresses the opt-out of Britain, Poland and Ireland from the charter of Human Rights, Sarkozy’s Protocol to replace the goal of “undistorted competition” from the EU’s list of main objectives and reference to the political criteria for accession countries demanded by the Netherlands. 

Brady claims that the new Treaty puts an end to “EU navel-gazing” but warns that even though the blueprint is agreed, it will still be tough to reach a final agreement in the formal negotiations. 

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