How to restart the European process – a three point plan

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Agreed by the Federal Union Committee

Background

The rejection of the European constitution by the referendums in France and the Netherlands is a setback but not a disaster. The prospect of a European constitution may have been proven to be further away than we previously thought, but that does not undermine the basic case for a democratic and effective European Union.

New thinking is needed to revitalise the European Union and restore its momentum towards democracy and unity. This must include a new approach to reforming the institutions of the EU to make them more democratic, more effective and more accountable.

Point 1 – Some immediate improvements to the institutions of the European Union

We are assuming that there is no prospect of amending the treaties in the short term. This does not, however, mean that there are no reforms of the institutions possible. There are some things can be done in the context of the consolidated treaty as it is right now. These include:

1.1 open meetings of the Council of Ministers when acting as a legislature (read more here)

1.2 a stronger connection between the European elections and the choice of the next Commission president (read more here)

1.3 involving member state parliaments in the debate over legislative proposals (read more here)

Implementing these elements will improve the governance of the European Union and contribute to improving its credibility in the eyes of the voters.

Point 2 – A new approach to amending the treaties

The need to reform the treaties was not killed off by the referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands. Those who say that the EU must improve its policy delivery are correct, but this is not in itself enough, and in many respects it is dependent on institutional reform in any case. It is also necessary to start thinking about how to prepare those amendments, in order that they can be debated on the basis of facts rather than, as too often with the previous constitutional treaty, myths.

2.1 Procedure

2.1.1 the text of the next set of amendments should be prepared by a new convention, perhaps with a different name, perhaps with a different composition, certainly with more time for its deliberations

2.1.2 there should be a deliberate procedure of majority voting within the convention rather than working by consensus

2.1.3 there should be a series of parliamentary conferences bringing together members of the different parliaments within the EU to debate and discuss together

2.1.4 there must also be a major and adequately financed programme of engagement with civil society and public opinion in parallel with the deliberations of the convention

2.1.5 the proceedings should be publicly available on the internet and through other technologies

2.2 Form of the final proposal

2.2.1 the proposals should take the form of sets of amendments to the consolidated treaty (which might each be voted on separately) rather than a general “delete all and replace” proposal – this would (a) separate out the debate over the EU as it is now from the debate about the way it might be in the future, (b) bring a clearer relationship between “problems” and “solutions” in the EU, and (c) separate out the debate about the different elements of the proposed new treaty

2.2.2 we suggest that the amendments should be divided into four parts as follows:

(a) foreign and security policy

(b) justice and home affairs

(c) the economic governance of the eurozone

(d) democracy and the legislative process

2.2.3 parts (a) and (b) should be drafted in such a way as to be applied to those member states that sign and ratify them, even if not all member states can do so; part (c) would apply only to the members of the eurozone; part (d) must apply to all member states without exception

2.2.4 each part should be further divided into those elements that are genuinely constitutionally innovative and those which are technical (e.g. the renumbering of existing articles). Those in the latter category need not be submitted to referendums.

2.3 Ratification procedure

2.3.1 the parliamentary ratifications (in those member states that ratify without referendum) must take place first

2.3.2 any referendums (in those member states that ratify with referendums) should take place on the same day after the parliamentary procedures are completed

2.3.3 separate votes might be held on the different parts of the proposal, as set out in 2.2.2 above

2.3.4 member states that fail to ratify one or more parts of the proposal undertake to have another attempt, in the full knowledge (a) of which other member states have already ratified and (b) that failure to ratify at a second attempt will allow the other member states to proceed in the area of policy concerned without them, rather than the non-implementation of those proposals.

2.4 Flexibility

The possibility of enhanced cooperation in the future is accommodated by this proposal in (a) the conscious division of the new treaty into 4 discrete parts and (b) the recognition that they will not necessarily require ratification by all 25 (or more) member states in order to come into force in those member states that have supported them.

Point 3 – Making the EU institutions more democratic, effective and accountable

The following points are not necessarily the final word on the subject, but they outline the basic ideas we have about the next stages of development of the European Union.

3.1 Foreign and defence policy

3.1.1 The role of High Representative should be taken over by a Vice-President of the European Commission (so-called “double-hatting”).

3.1.2 There should be progress towards generalising decision-making by double majority voting in the Council; constructive abstention should be permitted for those member states that are outvoted.

3.1.3 There should be progress towards integration on defence matters.

3.2 The economic governance of the eurozone

3.2.1 The Stability and Growth Pact should be reformed to encourage economic growth and political accountability

3.2.2 The EU should be permitted to issue debt instruments within set limits rather than be required to balance its budget.

3.3 Justice and home affairs

3.3.1 The ECJ should be the supreme court of the Union.

3.3.2 The Charter of Fundamental Rights should have legal force over the activities and decisions of the EU institutions, including matters of internal security.

3.3.3 The Commission should have executive competences over justice and home affairs.

3.4 Democracy and the legislative process

3.4.1 Each sectoral Council should be chaired by an individual elected to serve for a period of perhaps 2½ years.

3.4.2 On all legislative matters, the Council should meet in public and vote by double majority with the procedures of a normal legislature. On all other matters, it should vote by double majority.

3.4.3 All legislation should require the assent of both the European Parliament and the Council.

3.4.4 The whole budget – both income and expenditure – should require the assent of both the European Parliament and the Council. (The treaty might set an upper limit on the size of the budget.)

3.4.5 The president of the Commission should be elected by the European Parliament immediately after the European elections.

Read the article as a pdf file at three point plan

View the Powerpoint presentation at three point plan PP

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