President. The next item is the report (A6-0279/2007) on behalf of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs by Jo Leinen on the convening of the Intergovernmental Conference: the European Parliament's opinion (Article 48 of the TEU)
Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. (PT) Mr President, honourable Members, two years have passed since the rejection of the Constitution in two Member States cast a shadow over the Union’s activities. After a year of reflection, the German Presidency was given a mandate, in June 2006, to find a solution that would enable us to emerge from this deadlock and, on behalf of my colleagues, I should like to congratulate the German Presidency on obtaining a broad agreement at the European Council. I consider that we all have reason to be very particularly grateful to Chancellor Merkel for her personal commitment to getting that agreement voted through.
As previous speakers have said, the agreement reached at the European Council means that a new reforming Treaty will be drawn up, opening the way to a rapid Intergovernmental Conference with a view to enabling the new Treaty to enter into force in time for the elections to Parliament in 2009. I warmly commend it to all of you.
It is obvious that many of you will find parts of the agreement which you consider less than satisfactory. None of us can pretend that this is exactly the mandate we would have formulated if we had had total freedom to do so. From the outset, the German Presidency was confronted with the difficult task of reconciling very different opinions on how we should move forward. Those who had already ratified the Constitutions wished, understandably enough, to keep the existing text as close to its original form as possible, while others called for a fresh text as different as possible from the draft Constitutional Treaty. The text is, therefore, a compromise between these two positions. Everyone has now had a chance to assess the outcome and I therefore will not linger over the details. I am convinced that this is a balanced text and that it would not have been possible to reach a better agreement than this.
The agreement reached at the European Council confers on the Portuguese Presidency a mandate which, because it is all-encompassing and exhaustive in its detail, will enable the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), charged with fully transforming the mandate into the text of a Treaty, to complete its work in as short a time as possible. Parliament will be fully involved in the work of the IGC and the Council has accepted a Portuguese proposal that Parliament should have three representatives at the Conference.
Knowing the commitment of this Chamber to ensuring that the Union will in future be able to act with the greatest efficiency and democratic legitimacy, I am delighted with that increased representation. Parliament has obviously been consulted throughout the process leading to the IGC. I know the MEPs’ contribution was very much appreciated by the German Presidency, which took it fully into consideration when drawing up the mandate.
Mr President, honourable Members, the Council has invited Parliament to submit its opinion on the holding of an IGC and its debates in this House today are geared towards this opinion. I would encourage you to submit your opinion as quickly as possible so that work of the IGC can begin before the summer holidays. We are absolutely determined that it should do so. I hope you will agree with me when I say that this objective is in all our interests.
You will undoubtedly have some detailed observations to make and would like them to be taken into consideration at the IGC, but I hope that collectively you can give ample support to the mandate inherited by this Presidency. This is the only way of ensuring that the work of the IGC is a success and the only way of helping the Union out of its current deadlock.
Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, only a few months ago, not many observers were fully convinced that the European Council could successfully relaunch the treaty review process. Opinion across Europe was fragile and there were wide divergences of views but, thanks to the admirable determination of Chancellor Merkel and the German Presidency and through a real collective effort by Member States and our institutions, the European Council last month reached agreement on a clear and stringent mandate for a new IGC, and it is important that we today recognise this success.
Yesterday, the Commission adopted its opinion on the IGC and, today, you are discussing Parliament’s opinion. This process will allow the Portuguese Presidency to launch the Intergovernmental Conference later this month, but it is not only on timing that our institutions walk side by side. We also do so more importantly on the substance.
The Commission shares the globally positive assessment of the IGC mandate which Mr Leinen’s report provides. The mandate contains many positive elements which are to be welcomed. Like any compromise text, it is also a carefully crafted balance between different interests, between ambition and political realism, and this means that some of the changes agreed in the 2004 IGC were not retained. It is also the reason why a number of derogations were granted to individual Member States.
I shall set out four reasons why the Commission believes that this mandate will allow us in the IGC to provide the European Union with the sound institutional and political basis which we need to meet the expectations of our citizens and the challenges of our societies.
Firstly, the mandate will lay the ground for modern and more accountable institutions for the enlarged Union. We warmly welcome the provisions which will refresh and reinforce the European Union’s democratic legitimacy, a stronger and wider role for the European Parliament, transparency of Council deliberations, more codecision, more decisions taken by qualified majority, a clearer division of competences.
National parliaments will have greater opportunity to be involved in the work of the European Union, while the role of the European institutions will be fully respected. We are also very pleased to see that the innovations of the constitutions on democratic participation, including the citizens’ initiative, have been safeguarded.
Secondly, the Union will have a Charter of Fundamental Rights to protect the citizens, not just a declaratory text but one which will have legal force. Citizens will be able to claim before the courts the rights enshrined in the Charter. The Charter will be binding for the European institutions and for Member States when they implement EU law, even if this does not apply to all of them.
Thirdly, the Union will be able to speak with one single voice on the global scene and be better able to protect the European interest. If we really want to tackle globalisation and address common concerns on sustainable development, climate change, competitiveness and human rights in the world, the Union should use to the fullest its great potential to act collectively.
My fourth remark concerns the policy areas, because the mandate develops the Union’s capacity to deliver swifter and more consistent decisions in the area of freedom, security and justice. Furthermore, it reinforces the legal basis to deal with the challenges of energy policy and climate change.
How can we assess these changes? In our view, the overall balance is positive: the disappearance of some elements, including some of a symbolic nature, as well as the changes that reduced the readability of the text, were necessary parts of a package agreement which could be subscribed to by all Member States. Without an effort to compromise from all those involved, success would not have been possible.
The European train is back on track, but we are not yet at the end of the journey and the citizens must be on board. The mandate is not yet the final product. To steer this new consensus to a successful IGC will require intensive efforts from the Portuguese Presidency, the Member States and our institutions. We particularly welcome the decision of the European Council to strengthen the involvement of the European Parliament in the IGC.
However, our collective negotiating efforts on their own will not be enough. We all – the Commission, the Member States and Parliament – should draw some lessons from the previous ratification process and from the listening phase of Plan D. I am glad to see that the European Council has recognised the importance of communicating with citizens, providing full and comprehensive information on the EU and involving them in a permanent dialogue. This should be even more important in view of the changes that have reduced the readability of the treaty text.
In the coming months, the Commission will present some ideas on how a debate around the reformed Treaty could be organised during the ratification period. We want to work closely with you in the European Parliament, all the Member States and other institutions. Together, we should use this window of opportunity; together, we should engage in this new process without any delay and with all our energy.
Jo Leinen (PSE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Prime Minister, Madam Vice-President, ladies and gentlemen, this debate in plenary began at 9 a.m. and is still going on. Perhaps it would have been better to link the debate on the Portuguese Presidency to comments on our opinion on the Intergovernmental Conference, since that Intergovernmental Conference is the centrepiece of the Portuguese Presidency and its success or failure will be determined by whether or not Lisbon produces a Treaty.
The message that we wish to convey in our opinion is that the European Parliament gives the green light for convening an Intergovernmental Conference. There was an extremely tight deadline for consultations on this opinion and many fellow MEPs criticised the timing, but we pulled out all the stops and do not want to put any obstacles in your way. We do not want to put spokes in anyone's wheel, because we ourselves have an interest in both convening and concluding this Intergovernmental Conference speedily. We hope that the October summit will produce results. That is feasible because the mandate is very specific and we have a textual proposal. So there should be lots of work for the legal experts but not much for the politicians, if everyone keeps to the agreement achieved in the Brussels Council.
Which brings me to my first appeal to the Portuguese Presidency: stand firm, be consistent, do not let the Member States step out of line, do not allow new points to be added to the agenda, or additional requests because people claim not to understand something that they fully understood the day before. Be strict, stick to the precise terms of the mandate, and then you will succeed.
We realise that there have been some losses. There is a price to pay, and not only in the loss of symbolic elements. The Reform Treaty is conceptually different to the original Constitution. To a large extent, the idea of a Europe of citizens and states, not simply a Europe of states, has been lost. Article 1 has disappeared, and the Treaty simply says: 'The High Contracting Parties have agreed' and there is no longer any reference to 'reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe'. This may seem minor, but it is a sign of erosion that may well prove harmful. We would like to highlight this point.
We are also very concerned by the growing number of opt-out clauses. It raises the question of whether everyone wants one Europe. Is there still the political will for further integration or are we already dealing with two groups of countries who only want to remain in the EU on paper. The question needs to be asked. Parliament is extremely critical of the United Kingdom's opt-out clause for the Charter on Fundamental Rights.
The EU wants to become a Community of values. We speak out throughout the world in favour of human rights, fundamental rights. I can already hear Mr Putin or the Chinese Prime Minister saying but you cannot even agree on fundamental rights amongst yourselves! This is a blow to the credibility of the EU as a whole, and it also constitutes discrimination against citizens resident in the United Kingdom, including EU citizens who live and work there. In our opinion, we call on the institutions and governments to again do everything in their power to create equal protection for fundamental rights – it could work! The Court of Justice has a vital role to play here.
The Constitution was drafted by a Convention. Now we have an Intergovernmental Conference that uses different methods, but, President-in-Office, you can still go for maximum transparency. Publish the documents that are put forward for discussion; work with us and the Commission to pursue a strategy of dialogue with the public and the citizens.
The so-called simplified Treaty will unfortunately be a complicated treaty. We do also need a consolidated version before the close of the Intergovernmental Conference, and not, as was the case in Amsterdam, one year later. We need a readable text when the IGC closes. Perhaps it would also be useful to supply an explanation with the text, setting out the key elements and main messages for the citizens.
Of course, we welcome all the progress made. We do want to make another major step forward, preferably before the European election, so that we can focus on other issues during the 2009 election campaign. So there is a lot of hard work to be done, but with determination and commitment we should succeed. Parliament supports the Portuguese Presidency.
Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats is pleased that the European Council should have reached an agreement, and in a few minutes time, therefore, my group is going to vote in favour of the resolution so that the Intergovernmental Conference can meet in accordance with Rule 48.
The important thing now, however, is for this agreement, the agreement resulting from the Intergovernmental Conference, to be a good one. Let me make myself very clear. What we are saying is that the Conference should go ahead, but we will judge the Intergovernmental Conference on its results.
I would also like to say that for my group, which will be represented by Mr Brok in that Intergovernmental Conference, it will be an important political issue to act as guardian of the Constitution. We want the content and the substance of the agreement of the European Council to be present in the final agreement on the Treaty resulting from the Intergovernmental Conference.
One issue which has been mentioned by Mr Sócrates is that of the referendums. Let me tell you something, while nobody is listening: Do not trust parties that are in opposition and call for referendums. Do not trust those that call for referendums so that they can vote ‘no’ either, because they want to destroy Europe. Some want to destroy the government in office and others want to destroy Europe.
I therefore believe that Mr Sócrates’ words this morning sum it up. No country can create a mess for all the other countries and at this point we must all aim in the same direction in order to get Europe out of its impasse.
The first agreement by the European Council is an initial step and I now believe that we must all set about, on the one hand, reaching a good agreement and, on the other, beginning, once we have rid ourselves of that burden of the constitutional impasse, to work.
Because what has really worried me, Mr President, is the climate of suspicion and distrust in Europe, which I saw at the last European Council. That is something that must be of concern to all of us and something we must all resist together.
Richard Corbett, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, the Socialist Group welcomes the convening of the IGC, accepts the mandate and supports the timetable.
Many people have commented that this mandate salvages some 90% of the content of the Constitutional Treaty, and this has given rise to much comment. But colleagues will also know that recent scientific research demonstrates that human beings and mice are genetically 90% identical. However, the 10% difference is rather important. And so here with this mandate, the 10% difference is rather important.
The loss of the constitutional designation of the Treaty, the failure to change the name of the high representative to foreign minister, the failure to mention in the Treaty the supremacy of Community law, the loss of the symbols and the numerous derogations and opt outs for particular Member States mean that for those Member States the percentage – be it 90 or whatever – is even lower. All these make it a very different treaty that is envisaged than the Constitutional Treaty.
That will be a matter of regret for this House and for a large majority of the Member States. Nonetheless, those changes will make it possible, will make it easier to ratify the Treaty in all 27 Member States, and that is the crucial point that we have to recognise.
Andrew Duff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, my group welcomes the prospect of a quick and efficient IGC that clears up the ambiguity following the period of reflection, secures legal certainty and builds a strong consensus behind the reform treaty. Of course, it is especially appropriate for Parliament to seek, inside the IGC, to protect what it stood to profit from in the 2004 treaty. But we should also be certain that the growing number and crowd of opt-outs and minimalistic footnotes do not contaminate the integrity of the corpus of European law and the jurisdiction of the courts. We will fight to prevent a political spillover from the UK protocol on the Charter; a multi-tier Council is one thing, but Parliament cannot tolerate first- and second-class citizenship.
We should fight the popular suspicion that the IGC is nothing more than a grand exercise in the obscurantism designed to extricate certain states from pledges to have referenda, and I was very pleased that Prime Minister Sócrates is determined that plebiscites should not be pitched to oppose parliaments. Maximum transparency is desirable and Parliament’s greater role, superior strength and more pluralistic presence inside the IGC will assist to secure such transparency.
Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, it seems to me, that at least as regards the Treaty, this House either does not know or does not like words of compromise. The criticism of the mandates in the report is in my view extremely unfair. My country, Poland, has shown great flexibility and willingness to compromise on this, which is why it is with concern that I read the stern terms of the report, which does not want to acknowledge the obvious success of the mandate.
Contrary to what the report says, a new onomatology, the symbols of Europe in the treaty would only result in incomprehension, and would suggest that the European Union is entering a phase of pseudo-statehood. The mandate’s flexibility regarding the opt-out is an expression of wisdom and realism, and not of weakness. The same applies to the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
One thing that we can definitely agree on – over the next ten years there are many things, the voting system included, that need to be reconsidered. The intergovernmental conference also faces some considered, detailed decisions on this issue. Without them we risk an impasse in ratification.
Johannes Voggenhuber, on behalf of Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, since the European Council in Brussels, there seems to be a sense of melancholic satisfaction. Perhaps it is just because the holidays are nearly here. In fact, when one looks at the mandate for this Intergovernmental Conference, it is tempting to say that Europe has got off lightly, but I fear that it is not that simple. It is not the Member States who have been hit. Everyone is eyeballing everyone else, people are looking jealously to their sovereignty. The question is whether Europe has just had its eye blacked, or whether it is blind in one eye, because the citizens can not longer see the real nature of this Union.
Of course, the mandate safeguards the Constitution's central achievements, but the mandate also clouds Europe's true nature, it hides Europe, and obscures the idea of European integration. Mr Barón Crespo, I do not think that we are dealing with an exercise in political realism. What we have here is open and intense nationalism, with parochial governments going their own sweet way.
Is it really just a cosmetic change when there is no longer any reference to the Union of the citizens, and we go back to a Union of states? Was that what people wanted when they voted 'no' in France and the Netherlands? What happened to their demands for a social Europe and greater democracy? Is that unrealistic? Is it not necessary? Surely this is Europe's role? Where have we sought to use clear language that is easy to understand in this Constitution, to produce an intelligible document? The governments have had just one aim over the last few months: to produce an obscure, enigmatic, incomprehensible, unreadable Treaty that citizens are not supposed to read.
The opt-out for the Charter on Fundamental Rights is not just one in the eye for Europe – it is an assault on our self-image as a Community of values. It is unacceptable that the Union should describe itself as a Community of values whilst allowing some of the citizens to be excluded from those values!
Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, I can understand that the EU leaders are enthusiastic about the idea of seeing their old Constitution revived, even if it has been deprived of some of its assets. In this regard, I agree with what Mr Voggenhuber just said. What I find more difficult to understand is why, at a time when these very leaders appear so set on fulfilling our fellow citizens’ most earnest desires, they put so much effort into preventing them from getting too close to this institutional UFO.
How else can we interpret the very specific form of democracy that characterises the process under way? There is a negotiation mandate that is totally unreadable for the uninitiated, a suspicious speeding up of the timetable and, above all, panic at the idea of any referendums. Deep down, our leaders are no doubt saying to themselves that the act of changing the words – constitution, ministers, law – and of deleting the references to the anthem and the flag would be unlikely to carry much weight faced with the people’s concerns about the current European model if, by any chance, a fundamental public debate of the level and force of that which rocked one part of the Union two years ago – and for good reason – were to resurface.
In the future treaty, liberal economic structures, whether they affect the European Central Bank, competition, free trade or the movement of capital, will remain for the most part unchanged. Not only will the Charter of Fundamental Rights, of which mention was just made, still have serious gaps, but it is required to endorse a situation that totally contradicts everything that it stands for, to endorse an exception, which, in this instance, is a British exception, or, if you prefer, the right to discrimination, the right to privileges. Finally, the new provisions on security and defence policy, which in many areas had fuelled numerous doubts and fears, have all been replicated. We need look no further for the obvious difficulties faced by our respective governments.
In Spain and in Luxembourg, they are going to explain that a new municipal referendum is unnecessary given that the substance of the already ratified treaty has been preserved in its entirety. In France and in Sweden, on the other hand, the government will suggest that a referendum is no longer relevant since the nature of the text has profoundly changed. As for Denmark and Portugal, where a citizens’ vote was planned, the cosmetic tidy-up operation performed on the 2004 treaty may well justify a cowardly renouncement of this test of truth. It is only in Ireland that the referendum is, today, as it was yesterday, crucial.
That is why, by fully respecting the differences of opinion and the specific national situations, my group is going to show the same determination as it has in the recent past and make a huge effort to provide information, to clarify the issues at stake and to compare ideas about the content of the future treaty with the same, EU-wide, democratic demand: that the people of Europe be consulted in practice. In a few days’ time, the Intergovernmental Conference will begin its work but, with the benefit of experience, I am convinced that the die has not been cast: it will be soon.
(Applause from the left)
Bernard Wojciechowski, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, the new Treaty is a decoy for the implementation of the former constitutional Treaty. The report stresses that the mandate safeguards the substance of the constitutional Treaty. Two nations said ‘no’. It is therefore little more than a sloppy attempt at federalising the Union at any price. It also suggests that Parliament reaffirm its intention to maintain an open dialogue.
This Parliament has become so arrogant that if it were not so pathetic it would be funny. To say that we maintain an open dialogue with anyone is a mere joke. Support for the constitutional Treaty has not increased. Scholars and politicians declare it a complete failure. Any new Treaty ought to consider the following aspects.
Firstly, the final product will have to be ratified in all Member States pursuant to the constitutional provisions, and referendums should be repeated. The attempt to solve the issues of integration over the heads of civil society is unacceptable.
Secondly, the constitutional Treaty embodied a compromise between the Member States and the political systems. The revised Treaty will not go further than the arrangements contained in that Treaty. It will become a dwarfed constitutional Treaty.
Thirdly, the attempt to make another treaty causes a significant delay at this stage of the political reform of the EU. Reform is possible, yet for some reason, it is not pursued. The changes within the first pillar are feasible in the areas provided for by the TEC. The implemented reforms within this procedure may include the intergovernmental area, basically the second and third pillars.
There is a possibility to regulate many issues based on international agreements concluded by the Member States. As far as the third pillar is concerned, the strengthening of the structures of judicial and police cooperation can also be achieved. It is possible to secure the EU’s democratic legitimisation through the holding of public Council meetings, the strengthening of the national parliaments, consultative position and giving this Parliament the power to designate the President of the Commission.
The rush for a new Treaty makes no sense at all. A new document may not be implemented through some back channel. This is against the will of the people. Demands for a legal personality, the single currency or the rotating system in the Commission are extreme, although over the last two years no European nation has expressed such a will.
President. Mr Wojciechowski, if you wish to criticise others, please make sure you keep to the speaking times yourself.
Philip Claeys, on behalf of the ITS Group. – (NL) Mr President, I can only conclude that, in an official report, this House too now quite clearly admits what everyone has been able to establish following the European Summit of Brussels, namely that the European Constitution, which was rejected by the Dutch and French voters and which, as a result, from a strictly legal perspective, could never enter into force again, is being retained and introduced almost in its entirety via legal-political tricks.
The tactics of surreptitiously pushing through sections of this Constitution, which was a pursuit that caught on even after the French and Dutch referendums in all manner of ways – just think of the Charter of Fundamental Rights that was made binding even though the document is non-binding – are now also being adopted in official European policy. This Parliament would not be this Parliament if it did not, according to age-old traditions, draw a distinction between the so-called ‘good’ Member States, those who glorify the federal creed and walk the federal path unquestioningly, and the so-called ‘bad’ Member States.
The height of cynicism, however, is of course the call of this House – and I quote verbatim – ‘to get the European citizen involved again in the continuation of the constitutional process’. In reality, what this House has done in many reports, starting with the infamous Duff–Voggenhuber report, is sweep the result of the French and Dutch referendums off the table. This House could not care less about what the public wants, the very people it claims to represent. This House is slowly but surely turning into the very opposite of anything related to real democracy.
(Applause from the right)
Jim Allister (NI). – Mr President, we pretend we are on the side of the people but produce a report which conspicuously avoids support for popular ratification of this recast constitution. Indeed, such is the determination to rush this report through that we abandon due process in this House to a degree that would make a despot blush!
We demand of Member States that they abide by the IGC mandate but declare our unilateral intent to go beyond it by using the European flag and the anthem. We declare our determination immediately we get these constitutional changes through to demand more. This is the elephant trap of this agreement, because it permits self-amendment, which for most will mean never again having to consult the people about whose constitutional status we would make changes.
(Applause from the right)
Maria da Assunção Esteves (PPE-DE). – (PT) Europe took a step forward at the last Summit in June. It did not lose heart during the crisis, and left no one out of this shared quest for a cosmopolitan society based on the rule of law. It is true that consensus is not so easy to achieve in an enlarged Europe, but Europe is a moral project, one of reason, a conquering project. There is no way but unity and no destination but global justice.
Europe is being constructed on layers of structural adjustment: the Treaty of Rome and the shattering of the myth of borders, the Treaty of Maastricht and European citizenship, the Treaty of Nice and enlargement, and now the reforming Treaty and political integration in a large-scale democracy. The reforming Treaty does not yet open the doors to a constitutional Europe – it still leaves us largely in a Europe of the Governments – but it puts an end to the fallacy of reasoning based purely on opposition, and to the mistake of seeing a Europe of results as conflicting with an institutional reform of Europe.
The Intergovernmental Conference will require good faith on the part of governments, the involvement of parliaments and a policy of genuine communication. Let us be under no illusions: a referendum will not make that communication work, nor legitimise the new Treaty of the Union. In many cases, referendums are associated with a populist tendency that has nothing to do with the rational foundations of democracies. Europe’s legitimacy can only be constructed on a political process of constant communication, one that places politics above bureaucracy, values the scrutiny of the national parliaments, encourages the involvement of civil society, strengthens leadership, publicises the work of the institutions and bases its day-to-day policies on a culture of rights and humanity. That is the legitimate Europe.
Harlem Désir (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Europe is about more than just its treaties; its difficulties are not solely – and not even principally – of an institutional nature, and the revival of Europe will have to hinge on policies, European projects and the EU budget. However, it is a fact that the deadlock on the reform of the institutions, the failure to ratify the Constitution in several countries and the non-ratification procedures in others have bogged Europe down, plunged it into crisis and tested its unity.
In fact, the compromise reached to convene the Intergovernmental Conference and the mandate in view of the future modifying treaty do not arouse enthusiasm. Everything is complicated in this agreement, which contains many footnotes, so much so that the future treaty will not be simplified at all and will be difficult for Europeans to understand.
The opt-out that has been granted concerning the Charter of Fundamental Rights is truly appalling on the part of those who requested it. At least this Charter will apply to the 26 other EU countries, and that does them great credit. However, at least this agreement is an agreement, and came at a time when Europe needed to affirm its unity.
I believe that we have to give every opportunity to the Intergovernmental Conference and, above all – and, on this particular point, I would like to react to the remarks made by my fellow Member, Mr Wurtz – the mandate for convening the Intergovernmental Conference has at least one virtue: that of basing its work on the institutional innovations that were, for the most part, contained in the first part of the draft European Constitution. That is a key point since the first part of the Constitution was scarcely challenged, even by the 'No' camp, those who claim to adhere to European integration in any case, in the countries in which referendums were held.
The future treaty should therefore take up the elements on which there is a consensus among all sincere Europeans, whether they voted ‘Yes’ or ‘No' to the Constitution: there should be enhanced powers for the European Parliament and the national parliaments, a stable Council Presidency, double majority voting, fewer blocking minorities, fewer unanimous decisions taken, not least regarding judicial and police cooperation, an enhanced common foreign and security policy, enhanced and structured cooperation in the area of defence policy, which will be easier to implement, and new powers in the areas of energy and climate change.
Furthermore, there are also two points that were in the third part but that, I believe, all the progressives will want to protect: the horizontal social clause and an article making it possible to protect services of general economic interest and, therefore, to adopt a directive in favour of public services. I hope that, if the Intergovernmental Conference takes up all these points, all the advocates of Europe, whether they voted ‘Yes’ or 'No' to the draft Constitution, will support the future draft treaty.
Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, I wish to raise one very important issue. I would ask the Members of Parliament to support Amendment 1, which calls for extending the mandate of the Intergovernmental Conference to include transferring the European Parliament’s seat from Strasbourg to Brussels. My group backs this decision.
This is a small but very important matter. One seat would strengthen the EU’s legitimacy. A year ago more than a million people signed a petition in favour of one seat, and the IGC is the place where this should be discussed and decided. Parliament will decide today whether it wants to debate the issue of having one seat or continuing as before. If we are in favour of having one seat we will vote for Amendment 1.
Inese Vaidere (UEN). – (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, as the only European Union institution which is elected by the citizens, the European Parliament has a duty to make its decisions comprehensible. I would like to stress that the reasons why the Constitutional Treaty was rejected in two Member States and was unpopular in others have not been analysed in sufficient depth. In my view, the scepticism was largely due to the fact that citizens observe a concentration of decision-making, arrogance on the part of the authorities and remoteness from the people, as well as excessive red tape. These are sufficient reasons to make citizens oppose further integration. Our task is to involve citizens in decision-making, instead of taking the decisions in their stead. We need to speak to citizens in language that can be understood, not in the specialised jargon of civil servants. The Intergovernmental Conference must take this into account. At the same time it is important to develop further the principle of solidarity in decision-making, for example in the highly important sphere of energy. We must speak to non-EU countries with a single voice, to prevent individual countries being blackmailed. I would like to stress the fact that, leaving aside its mistakes and deficiencies, the European Union is a successful project.
Gérard Onesta (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, I call on the Commission, first of all, and the Council, in particular, to show a bit of decency and modesty in this matter, for the magnificent success that they are trying to sell to us in this House does a bad job of disguising a declining state of affairs.
I shall pass over the disgraceful conduct of certain Heads of State or Government, who have gone back on their official and solemn word, on the Charter, as Mr Blair has done, and on the votes in the Council, as the Kaczynski brothers have done. We are going from having a Constitution, which we are losing – the words have meaning – a constitution that is a sign of confidence in our common values and prospects, to having a so-called simplified treaty. Simplified, what a huge joke! The footnotes are longer than the treaty itself. It is therefore a sign of mutual and widespread mistrust that we are up against, and the standstills are many: the opt-out on the Charter, which is going to create second-class citizens; standstills regarding the votes in the Council until 2017 and beyond with the Ioannina compromise; and diplomacy, which is certainly included, but just as soon hampered.
Quite clearly, a mandate must be given to this Intergovernmental Conference. Anything rather than the Treaty of Nice, because the Treaty of Nice spells the end. However, I would say to those who are ashamed of Europe: nothing solid is built on mistrust, especially when it is directed at the people, for we do not even take the time to work together, to codecide in Parliament – this debate is a shambles – to gain the citizens’ approval or even to educate. It is true that swift action must be taken to hide the fact that the policies are no longer on the table, but are now under the carpet. A price will, unfortunately, have to be paid for all that one day.
To conclude, Mr President, and because governing means anticipating, faced with the Commission’s and the Council’s inability to think up the next move, I call on Parliament to jump to action by confirming through its vote its firm intention to use its future power to modify the treaty in an effort to at last genuinely relaunch the driving force of Europe.
(Applause from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance)
Maciej Marian Giertych (NI) – (PL) Mr President, today is a black day for the European Union, and a black day for democracy. The political elites of the European Union, including this House, the European Commission and the Governments of the Member States, are trying to deceive their electorates and their peoples. We are expected to support a European constitution which has already been rejected by the electorate.
The slogan for today is Angela Merkel’s words: use different wording while preserving the legal essence, such as the name of the treaty, the names of legal acts of the European Union, or of the EU foreign minister. That is exactly what has been done.
We are discussing a document with a different name and formulated in different terms, but which is essentially the same. Ostensibly, it is a lower-level document, so as only to prevent it being subjected to a referendum. It is an attempt to deceive our own electorates, our own people. Today is truly a black day – a day of utter disgrace.
Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I should like to say to Mr Giertych that I have heard a lot of crap spoken in this House, but that was probably the biggest piece of crap I have ever heard.
I would like to inject a little positivism into this House. It sounds as if we are at some kind of a funeral with the new Treaty. As a matter of fact, I do not think we are we are entering a new phase.
I should like to make three points. Firstly, I fully trust the Portuguese Presidency. I remember doing the pre-Nice Treaty with the Portuguese Presidency, with Mr da Costa and Mr Lourtie. They always do a fantastic job. However, I should like to give them one piece of advice: be a little careful with the Council Secretariat, because the devil lies in the detail and Jean-Claude Piris is very good with detail.
My second point is that I think politics and economics go hand in hand. We have heard today and very often in this House that we want only an economic Union or we want only a political Union. I belong to the category of people who thinks that we need both: we need free and undistorted competition and we also need a political Union, and this Treaty really gives us both. I am not too worried about the opt-outs, because history shows us that any time there has been an opt-out, at the end of the day wisdom wins and people join in.
My final point is that we should look on the bright side. We have to turn the page. We have a Treaty or a draft Treaty on the table. Be positive: use the legal personality that we have, use the qualified majority voting that we have, use the codecision that we have, use the Charter, use the President, use the Foreign Minister. All I am saying today is that this is a new beginning, we have a fantastic Treaty, let us live with it and move on.
(Applause from the right)
Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the report we are discussing is a good and balanced one, which I will be happy to vote for. It sends the governments of the Member States, the national parliaments, and EU citizens a clear message: the European Union will be reformed, and the reform is on the right track.
It is also an attempt to restore public confidence in the European Union and its institutions. And it is in this context, in the context of trust, that the voices of some Member States which have reservations regarding the binding nature of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, that are a great cause for concern. I wonder how those governments will tell their citizens that they are not allowed to use one of the fundamental achievements of European democracy, and that they do not want to give them rights that their EU neighbours enjoy.
Will opposition to the Charter of Fundamental Rights lead to a new division of Europe into better and worse citizens, with the better citizens enjoying the whole spectrum of rights enshrined in the charter, rights which will be denied the worse citizens? Should we be accepting such divisions at the start of the 21st century? I say definitely not, particularly if we want, as the Portuguese presidency proposes, a stronger Europe in a stronger world.
Bogdan Pęk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, this treaty reforms nothing, it simply plasters over the cracks. It is a treaty whose aim is to conceal the truth about itself.
On every possible occasion the European Union and the august persons sitting in this House talk about fairness and the values on which the European Union is based. In the modern world, in the history of humanity, is there any greater virtue than the truth? No, there is not.
This treaty is a corruption of the truth, because underneath the cloak of the reformed treaty, there is a grossly deceptive attempt to force through the constitutional treaty, which the public rejected. It is a road that leads nowhere.
Mr President, in this House today you have again shown that you are able to cut off speakers who do not agree with the treaty, whilst giving almost a minute’s extra time to those who agree with you. That is your particular brand of fairness.
President. Mr Pęk, you had one minute speaking time. You spoke for one minute and 23 seconds. You exceeded your time, and the President was very tolerant. Perhaps you could be reasonable and accept that.
Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. (PT) We have already been debating this issue of the Treaty for a considerable length of time this morning – since 9 a.m., as one speaker has pointed out – and I therefore think that the most important observations and comments have been made, many of which have certainly been interesting, and from which the Portuguese Presidency will naturally draw its own conclusions.
I was a member of the European Convention, along with several of the MEPs present in this Chamber, and also took part in the Intergovernmental Conference in 2004. I am not saying that between 2004 and now I have not had cause to be apprehensive, and even to lack belief, but I have always known that Europe’s driving force is compromise and the willingness to move forward. Today I can tell you clearly that this willingness to move forward, this willingness to compromise, to reach agreement, has, in my view, returned.
We could not afford to fail and did not fail at the European Council, so let us give an unequivocal signal to Europe, its citizens and the world that this is a project for the future, a project that serves Europeans, a project that serves the world. Naturally, we may not all be satisfied with the mandate adopted by the European Council, but let no one be in any doubt that this mandate will give us a Treaty with more efficient institutions, more democratic decision-making and more appropriate responses both to the Union’s internal problems, and to the external problems the Union has to address.
This is and will be the mandate we needed. We shall certainly have the Treaty the citizens of Europe have long desired. As the Prime Minister of Portugal has said here, ‘we have the mandate, we do not have the Treaty', and the mandate we received is not to change that document but to create the new Treaty. That is our objective and we shall do so with all our strength and all our conviction.
Our target for finishing that task is October and I hope in October to be able to announce here the good news of a new Treaty for our Union. We shall therefore not permit any lack of discipline, as one of the MEPs suggested. I would also like to assure you that all Portuguese Presidencies are characterised by transparency, communication with citizens and communication with institutions. We shall of course continue in that vein and I can assure you that this is one of the Portuguese Presidency’s commitments.
As I say, I hope to have some good news for you in October.
Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members, there must be a position between Pangloss and his over-optimism and Eyeore the Donkey thinking that everything is hopeless. It is a very rare thing in politics to get a second life and I am not referring to internet role-playing. Remember that, less than a year ago, the Constitutional Treaty or the idea of having a new treaty was declared dead, on life support or in a coma. And now we are discussing a ratification procedure coming up very soon.
I think that engaging now in a blame game will not help us a bit, and, as a final comment on this debate, I have two things to say. First of all, on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Commission does not like opt-outs. We would have preferred not to have any opt-outs. But what was the real political choice here? It was a weakened charter without legal force or a charter that is legally binding for the EU institutions with an opt-out, or preserving the full text of the charter. Then, I prefer to have a charter which is legally binding, and an opt-out is also an opt-in so this is not cast in stone.
My second comment is that I would like to say that I assume that Members of Parliament do not consider parliamentary ratification less democratically legitimate than referenda.
Some Eurosceptics of course hope that the challenge of informing citizens and engaging citizens about and in such a complex issue as a treaty can be turned into a weapon that can kill further European integration. But I do not think we should allow that.
Also, regardless of what ratification method is chosen by Member States, we are all obliged to inform, to engage, to debate, to discuss with citizens all over Europe and this is what we now have to commit to, to do together, in full cooperation and in a planned manner. This is also how we will contribute from the Commission side. So, I will come back to you very soon with that kind of planning for a proper and democratic and open and transparent ratification procedure.
With that I also wish the Portuguese Presidency all the best with opening the IGC.
President. The debate is closed.
We shall proceed to the vote.
Written statements (Article 142)
John Attard-Montalto (PSE), in writing. – The last two years relating to the Treaty reform process have not been wasted. The following five steps have been identified and implementation initiated:
1. Following the mandate in June 2006, the German Presidency drew up a report.
2. The European Council agreed to convene an Intergovernmental Conference.
3. As the baton of the Council Presidency is passed to the Portuguese it has now become their priority to draw up a draft Treaty.
4. The IGC is expected to complete its work before the end of this year.
5. Ratification is expected to take place before the European elections in 2009.
In reality, what is happening is a more cautious approach: the constitutional aspect of the treaty has been restructured so as to appease the anti-constitutionality. On the other hand, substantial innovations originally proposed in the Constitutional Treaty have survived; the fact that the EU will have a legal personality being the most important of all.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE). – (FR) During the last European Council of June 2007, the Heads of State or Government reached a good agreement aimed at moving towards a political Europe. I regret that our friends from the United Kingdom should have distinguished themselves once again by their refusal to apply the Charter of Fundamental Rights and to cooperate fully in judicial and police matters. Although they have been preserved in material terms, I regret that the EU symbols (the flag, anthem and motto) have disappeared from the official text. While I am opposed to a federal European Union due to my firm conviction that the Nations are very useful when it comes to the well-being of the Peoples, I believe that the citizens need some reference points with which to identify the political Union. I hope that we return to this point. Finally, the deletion of the reference to the concept of ‘free and undistorted competition within the internal market’ will enable us, in the context of what has become complex worldwide competition, to make better use of the strength of our European Union for the sake of manufacturers, and not just consumers. I welcome the action taken by the President of the French Republic, Mr Sarkozy, who has been able to make full use of his talent to promote a strong and united Europe.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) In 200 words:
1. The mandate for the IGC retains the thrust of the content of the Treaty rejected in 2005.
2. What the forces behind the creation of the capitalist integration of Europe are seeking to do is to reinstate, via the back door, the federalist, neo-liberal and militaristic qualitative step enshrined in the rejected ‘European Constitution’;
3. This conveys a serious lack of respect for the wishes of the French and Dutch people as expressed in their referendums.
4. If Portugal only takes the mandate as a basis, in relation to the institutional issues, while at the same time the major powers are increasing their weight in the decision-making process in the EU, it will lose:
- In the weighting of votes in the Council;
- The right to exercise the veto;
- Members of the European Parliament;
- A permanent Commissioner.
5. The mandate reaffirms the basis of neo-liberal policies of the EU, which are at the root of the serious social and economic problems facing Portugal.
6. The mandate institutionalises the militarisation of the EU.
7. This means that the content of the mandate alone would be sufficient to justify holding binding national referendums on the pseudo-new draft Treaty, and that requirement is all the more legitimate given that the issue is the unacceptable imposition of the essential thrust of a Treaty that has already been rejected.
Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE), în scris. – Mandatul Consiliului European depăşeşte impasul constituţional în care Uniunea Europeană se află de mai bine de doi ani, dar în acelaşi timp sacrifică unele prevederi esenţiale.
Consiliul European a decis ca simbolurile europene să fie excluse din viitorul tratat; consider acest lucru ca fiind regretabil şi susţin modificarea Regulamentului de procedură al Parlamentului pentru a adopta în mod oficial steagul şi imnul Uniunii Europene. Cetăţenii europeni respectă aceste simboluri, pe care le consideră familiare şi apropiate, după cum indică cel mai recent Eurobarometru. În România, 76% dintre cetăţeni asociază simbolurile UE cu un sentiment de încredere; de aceea, sunt convinsă că steagul Uniunii Europene va fi şi în continuare arborat cu mândrie în ţara mea.
Mandatul defineşte, de asemenea, stabilirea unei noi componenţe a Parlamentului European. Ca singurul organ ales al Uniunii şi cel care este menit să reprezinte cel mai fidel cetăţenii, consider că Parlamentul European trebuie să respecte întru totul principiul proporţionalităţii în desemnarea numărului de europarlamentari din fiecare stat. Reprezentarea fiecărei ţări nu trebuie să fie stabilită prin negocieri politice, ci trebuie să reflecte mărimea populaţiilor statelor membre.
Nu în cele din urmă, consider esenţială includerea clauzei de solidaritate în domeniul energetic. Aceasta va asigura cadrul legislativ pe baza căruia Uniunea Europeană îşi va putea proteja mai bine interesele şi întări independenţa energetică.