Thursday, April 24, 2003
News from the Convention - 24th April 2003, 22.17

The European Convention is now due to issue its full draft of the Constitution on time at the Thessaloniki European Council on June 20th 2003. Giscard D'Estaing also announced that there was unanimous agreement over the need to appoint a European Foreign Minister, spelling out the acceptance of a common foreign and security policy by the Blair administration.

The main area of contention appears to be the professed role of any potential European President. This forms the greatest difference between the smaller countries who favour the rotating presidency cobined with the European Commission and the larger countries who prefer a defined presidential role. Giscard D'Estaing ignored the views of the smaller countries and proved yet again his bias towards the proposals tabled by France and Germany.

This week, the Convention will be debating the role of the "Foreign Minister" and Article 46, known as the "exit clause", the clearest signal that the new Constitution effectively strips all members of their national sovereignty. The latest incarnation of the "exit clause" includes a wait of two years for the lucky country, approval by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as well as agreeing the terms of exit on a qualified majority vote. Since this is close to the original draft publicised by Andrew Duff.

A flavour of the opposition to D'Estaing's proposal can be found from this reaction amongst the Finns. Helsingen Sanomat reported that most of the Finnish parliamentarains viewed D'Estaing's reforms as undemocratic. In addition to the Presidency, he also proposed a Congress of the Peoples of Europe, a stripped-down Commission and a Vice-Presidency that would be allocated to a smaller country. With such divisions there may be a positive outcome,

The Convention is scheduled to complete its work in the summer. However, differences in opinion are so great that it is unlikely that a single draft constitution for Europe will be approved by consensus, especially with the chairman making proposals that go against the views of the majority of the members of the Convention. "If the proposal comes to the convention table looking like this, the reception will be catastrophic. This does not reflect the debate that has been going on in any way", said Teija Tiilikainen, a Finnish member of the Convention, in an interview with the Finnish News Agency STT.

so long as D'Estaing is not being too clever.

Kimmo Kiljunen suspects that Giscard's paper might be deliberately strong, for tactical reasons. "My feeling is that Giscard wants a single final document from the Convention, and this goes against that goal. I am confident that this was put out simply to spark debate." Kiljunen suggests that the purpose may be to reach a compromise similar to that proposed by Germany and France earlier this year.


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