Institutional deadlock and the June Summit

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It should be possible to reach an agreement over the stalled Constitutional Treaty at the June Summit if two sets of conditions are satisfied, write Sebastian Kurpas and Stefano Micossi in a May 2007 paper for the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

The first condition is that a select number of key member states – especially France, the Netherlands and the UK – have demanded some important changes to the Treaty after identifying major obstacles to ratification, according to the authors. These include dropping all references to a Constitution, incorporating any changes into the existing treaties as amendments rather than the creation of a new Treaty, and incorporating the Charter of Fundamental Rights as a reference rather than in the full text. This is partly out of a desire to avoid referenda on the new Treaty in all three countries, the authors argue. 

The second condition is that the demands of the 20 countries who have already ratified the current treaty need to be satisfied, the paper states. For the authors, this will involve retaining the main provisions of the first part of the Constitutional Treaty (CT) as part of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). 

Under the compromise suggested by Kurpas and Miccoli, the existing two-treaty structure would be reinforced – with a revised TEU containing the main institutional provisions, and a revised Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) salvaging the CT section on common policies and details on the functioning of the institutions in specific cases. They believe that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not likely to prove a stumbling block, as it will not be incorporated into the new Treaty, due to widespread opposition. 

The CEPS paper insists that the bulk of the provisions of part one of the CT must be saved as it was developed as a delicate trade-off between the various actors, and so cherry-picking selective provisions on the functioning of the institutions does not offer a viable basis for compromise. The authors predict that the June Council will remove all provisions resembling a Constitution, though confirm the single legal personality of the Union and eliminate the pillar structure of the TEU – strengthening the Union’s capacity to act and making its structure more understandable to its citizens and international partners. The effects on national sovereignty will be limited and of a formal nature, while providing gains in transparency and efficiency, they believe. 

They suggest a ‘super-qualified majority’ voting system, with the majority defined as four-fifths of member states representing two-thirds of the Union’s population. 

Summing up, the authors believe that a slimmed-down Treaty would make the EU more efficient and democratic, though without adequately preparing for the future. 

The paper concludes that if the German EU Presidency shows sufficient determination and dexterity, it can lay the foundations for a compromise that goes far beyond a lowest common denominator at the June Summit. 

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