Friday, March 07, 2003
News from the Convention - 7th March 2003, 21.14

In response to the Iraqi crisis and the divisions within the European Union, the European Peoples Party (conservative in values, statist and socialist in economic matters) called for qualified majority voting on a common foreign policy, an end to independent action on the part of nation states and a diplomatic service controlled by the Commission. Reality is not yet breaking through here.

Italy differs with Germany on Iraq but, at a meeting between Schroeder and Berlusconi, the latter professed support for the Franco-German proposal on the European Constitution. This follows Blair and Aznar's announcements following the same line on the 28th February. Are all those supporting the United States conceding victory to France and Germany in the Convention as a quid pro quo?

At an extra session of the Convention on the 5th March to deal with the flood of amendments, Peter Hain sounds a lone voice.

Article 8: Fundamental Principle: Several speakers, including the UK Government representative Peter Hain and the Irish Government representative Bobby McDonagh, insisted that the Union's competence can only be derived from the decision by the Member States to confer powers upon it.

Article 9: Application of fundamental principles: Mr Hain challenged the principle of the primacy of Community law over national law. He suggested that this principle be deleted from the draft Constitution, but he ran into strong opposition. Mr Amato stated: "If the States confer competences on the Union, it is only natural that Union law should enjoy primacy".

Article 10: Categories of competence: Many Convention members opposed the idea of making a list of areas for exclusive and shared competences. Some members favoured drawing up a flexible and non-exhaustive list of competence, while others demanded a clear demarcation between the powers of the EU and the Member States. Mr Hain was in favour of an indicative list, who believed that otherwise legal confusion might arise if the Union took on new responsibilities.

Article 11: Exclusive Competences: Mr Hain insisted that the Court of Justice had never said that the Union enjoyed exclusive competences, even in the area of the four internal market freedoms. The alternate representative of the European Parliament Carlos Carnero Gonzalez suggested adding structural policy, justice, budgetary policy and common foreign and defence policy to the list of exclusive competences.

Hain must feel mired in the Slough of Despond, led by the Pliables of the Praesidium.


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