Monday, September 29, 2003
IGC: Stormclouds Looming

The forthcoming intergovernmental conference on the European Constitution has brought forth two separate and contradictory responses, often from the same Member States. On the one hand, the foreign ministers claim that the Convention's task has been completed and that there is no further need for radical change in the constitutional draft; yet, at the same time, they have been sending out signals as they prepare their positions for what appear to be inevitable exchanges and horsetrading.

One of the more worrying developments for the bigger powers has been the unity that the smaller countries have shown in projecting their voice and their position. Nineteen of the Member States met at the United Nations and demanded that the Italian Presidency should ensure that all subjects would be discussed at the IGC.

At the same time, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the role that it should undertake in any constitutional settlement. Their proposed reforms were limited but did seek to expand their own role in tandem with the Commission, whilst reining back the intergovernmental agenda preferred by the larger powers. Furthermore, the call for a greater Parliamentary role in the ESDP was the most visible sign that they wished to curb the influence of the larger powers.

The role of the President of the European Council should be strictly limited to chairing proceedings in order to avoid any conflicts with the President of the Commission or the EU Foreign Minister;
The Foreign Minister should be supported by a joint Council-Commission administration;
The Parliament is to play a more prominent role in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and defence policy;
The new distribution of seats in Parliament is to be implemented without delay;
Better solutions should be found regarding the consolidation of economic and social cohesion policy, the co-ordination of economic policy, the appointment of members of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance, the continuation of unanimous voting in Council for the CFSP and certain areas of social policy.

All of this may be nuts and bolts policy wonking but every aspect of the Constitution, including MEPs representation in the IGC is proving contentious. The European Parliament wanted three representatives from the Centre, the Socialists and the Liberals. (There is no major conservative grouping in the European Parliament, a reflection of its mediocrity). However, the Liberals wished to appoint Andrew Duff, the Liberal Democrat arch-federalist, who has proved almost as stomach-churning for Nulab as he does for us. Therefore, No.3 is being vetoed by McShane.

The negotiations at the IGC are proving to be a potential disaster that the illusory consensus of the Convention hid for the summer. Giscard D'Estaing did the bidding of his country and wrote a document that institutionalised the power of the larger powers, specifically the Franco-German axis, by transferring most decisions to an intergovernmental cabinet. However, as the stakes are so high, all bets are off on who compromises.

After the IGC and the signing comes the 110 metre referendum hurdles. This process is like watching a ship slowly launch into drydock.

(29th September 2003, 23.00)


Post a Comment

Blog Archive