Thursday, September 18, 2003
Prodi's Pronouncement - 18th September 2003, 21.00

Romano Prodi has stated in the run-up to the intergovernmental conference on the European Constitution that the European Commission should gain more powers over taxes and fiscal affairs, ending the national veto in these competences. He also argued that each country should retain a commissioner and that the Euroland ministers should be able to take policy decisions without reference to Member States who had kept their own currencies.

Prodi's relationship with the European Convention was troublesome since his pitch to strengthen the powers of the European Commission in alliance with the smaller countries proved uninfluential. The President of the European Commission was also weakened by his willingness to pronounce on European matters without consulting his colleagues and he has gained a reputation for waywardness. This latest statement can be viewed as a desperate calculation to encourage the smaller countries in the intergovernmental conference that they can still ally and force changes in the draft constitution to favour their own position and that of the Commission.

It is not clear if the smaller countries will support the radical changes that the Commission favours, since it would involve an extension of the Constitution's powers to a degree that would force both Britain and Ireland into the EEA. Their major goal was retaining the system of 'one country, one commissioner'.

Prodi is not strengthed by the Eurostat scandal that has marred his stewardship of the Commission. This scandal is now spreading as the EU fraud watchdog, OLAF, has begun to examine the European Publications Office, following the audit trail.

On a positive note, his statements may embolden the smaller countries to demand more at the intergovernmental conference, increasing the chances of failure as the fragile consensus on the European Constitution unravels. They also demonstrate that whilst many of Europe's elite favour integration, they no longer favour using the European Commission as a tool to promote this agenda.


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