The EU is in urgent need of a new Treaty, argue Richard Baldwin and Mika Widgren in a June paper for the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in London. The new Treaty simply must reform the current EU decision-making system, whatever other ‘filler’ items it may contain, the paper insists.
Treaty reform is essential if the slowdown in EU decision-making following the 2004 enlargement is to be reversed, argue the authors. Reaching consensus has become more cumbersome, they suggest, as all member states have had to become accustomed to a new logic of negotiations, with more formalised working procedures required to encompass a larger and more heterogeneous set of interests.
In today’s Union, the Presidency is seen to have a much more important role in preparing and co-ordinating negotiations, observes the CEPR paper – given the increased number of parties. The paper points out that EU leaders have repeatedly revealed they unanimously believe enlargement requires a reform of EU decision-making procedures.
After the Amsterdam Treaty failed to resolve institutional-reform issues, the paper claims that during the Nice Treaty negotiations, the small nations sacrificed power to allow enlargement to proceed. Without resolving key issues, the Nice Summit conclusions had to declare the Treaty a success if the 2004 enlargement was to go ahead, the paper states.
Baldwin and Widgren claim that once EU leaders realised that the Nice Treaty voting rules were insufficient and did not address the enlargement-linked institutional reforms, they set up a convention to consider a long list of questions – including institutional reforms – to make it difficult for observers to accuse EU leaders of having bungled the Nice Treaty reforms.
Coming just a year after the Nice Treaty was agreed, they insist that the Laeken Declaration amounts to an admission that the leaders believe it to be flawed, yet these are the rules that the final compromise in the Constitutional Treaty ensured will remain in force until at least 2009.
As a result of the EU failing three times to reform itself, hard bargaining ahead of the June Summit has pared down the agenda to the bare essentials – reform of the Council voting rules and the composition of the Commission. The authors conclude that a new Treaty is essential if the institutional impasse is to be solved.