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Debates
Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - Brussels OJ edition

12. Roadmap for the European Union's constitutional process (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0197/2007) by Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok, on behalf of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, on the roadmap for the Union’s Constitutional Process (2007/2087(INI)).

 
  
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  Enrique Barón Crespo (PSE), rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, I would like to present the joint report drawn up by Mr Brok and myself, two MEPs from different countries, belonging to different political groups, but expressing this Parliament’s repeated will for the Constitutional Treaty to move ahead and enhance our European Union significantly immediately after the Berlin Declaration marking its 50th anniversary.

What we say essentially is that, for the first time, in a public debate and in a joint fashion, we have drawn up the Constitutional Treaty that was signed in Rome in October 2004. At the moment, that Treaty has been ratified by two-thirds of the States – 18 States – four more have stated that they wish to ratify it, two States have held referendums that have rejected it and three have yet to issue their opinion on it.

I believe that we must continue our work following the period of reflection. Our proposal is essentially that we support the German Presidency’s efforts to call an Intergovernmental Conference at the next European Council, with a clear and precise mandate, which, on the basis of the current Treaties, of the Constitutional Treaty, can seek an agreement so that we can continue to work together.

We, who have been committed from the outset, believe that the Constitutional Treaty is made up of two parts: one which consists of Parts I and II, or Part IV, which is the result of the work of the Convention; and then Part III, which incorporates and reworks the current Treaties and increases the number of legal bases for codecision from thirty-six to eighty-seven, something which is important to the European Parliament.

In this regard, we believe that a formula can be achieved that enables us genuinely to move forward.

Furthermore, bearing in mind that the period of reflection has been fruitful and that we are not living in a hermetically-sealed box, but rather in the real world, there are a series of issues that are current, such as climate change, solidarity on energy, immigration, the adaptation of our social model to an ageing population and globalisation, the fight against international terrorism, the dialogue amongst civilisations and strengthening economic governance in the euro zone, which can enable us to enrich and respond to the concerns of the citizens.

That is essentially the message that we are proposing. Furthermore, we believe – and this is a clear message to the Council – that, following the Convention, Europe's future cannot be debated behind closed doors.

We have already taken the step of holding a political debate.

(Applause)

Therefore, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen – and I hope that the President will defend us, as he has always done in this field – we are asking to be able to participate actively in the Intergovernmental Conference and we are proposing formulae for providing precise information on what the Council, the Commission – which we hope will be very active – and also the governments are proposing and thinking with a view to moving forward. At the moment, Mr President, we believe that the important thing is not just to send a message of hope, but also to state that, as an old proverb puts it, ‘the path is made walking’, and that we must continue to move forward jointly, because that is what our public opinion demands, because that is what we have agreed and because it is also our duty, not just for ourselves, but for the rest of humanity as well, since we in Europe are currently building the first supranational democracy based on States and citizens, which has provided us Europeans with peace and prosperity — and we celebrated that in March — but it must also enable us to be a pioneering political organisation in democratic terms, which is looking towards the future of humanity.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Madam Vice-President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, there is no need for me to repeat what Mr Barón Crespo has said, as I agree with every word.

As the Berlin Declaration also states, thanks to the European Union, Europe – the western part, to begin with – has experienced the most peaceful, free, social and economically successful period in the whole history of this continent. Following the events of 1989 and the EU enlargements of 2004 and 2007, we have the great opportunity of securing this for the rest of the continent, too. This Constitutional Treaty aims to ensure that the Union of 27 can also enjoy these achievements. This success story must not be endangered. The 27 countries must be capable of action and be on an equal footing, and we should avoid Europe disintegrating again into various groups.

This must also be viewed in the light of the challenges we face, challenges that none of our nation-states can meet alone: such as globalisation and its economic and social consequences, the fight against terrorism, and the development of our foreign and security policy. We know that energy, and thus energy security, is not now within the area of authority of the EU, but we also know that the security of all our Member States is at stake and that we must therefore be capable of action in this field. The issue of the Minister for Foreign Affairs should also be addressed. We need a treaty organisation that, via a single legal personality, gives us the ability to act externally, too. Consequently, such matters concerning the substance of the Constitutional Treaty are vital if we are not only to prevent all war in Europe, as we have in the past, but also, in the interests of our citizens and nations, to increase our capacity for action in areas where nation-states alone cannot do any better.

This must be done transparently and democratically if we are to have legitimacy with our citizens, too. Efficiency, transparency, democracy and civil rights are essential components of the arrangement to be decided at the Summit and the Intergovernmental Conference. We have to make clear that this arrangement must strike a reasonable balance between the institutions, including in relation to the national parliaments, which should assume a more important role under the principle of subsidiarity. We must ensure it is made clear that the EU neither is nor wants to become a state, but that capacity for action will be established in areas where Member States believe joint action is better.

As part of this, we must accept and foster the identity of our peoples in future. Europe is not taking the place of the nation-states; instead it is a common organisation to make these nation-states stronger together. This is what the starting point must be. At the same time, the European Union must be based on equality between large and small, rich and poor. This is why double voting – whereby each country, large or small, has one vote – is so important.

We also have to look at the distribution of powers and responsibilities and, with it, the principle of subsidiarity and the extension of majority voting. We cannot fight terrorism and organised crime successfully unless we have majority voting in the necessary fields, such as internal policy.

I also believe that our Europe must be based on values. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is an essential component as far as Parliament is concerned.

(Applause)

All of this has to be incorporated – which is why the legal personality and the removal of the pillar structure are so important. The EU’s success story is based on our being a common body of law in the fields in which we have powers and responsibilities, and on our use of the Monnet method. The intergovernmental approach has always failed. The EFTA has failed, whilst the EU has been a winner thanks to the Monnet method. That is why we should not now fall back on methods that have failed in the past.

For this reason, we should support the German Council Presidency. We should prepare the ground for the provision of the necessary substance, and win all 27 peoples and Member States over to this objective, so as to give this Intergovernmental Conference a clear and clearly delimited mandate. We must ensure that the substance of the Constitutional Treaty is present, so that negotiations are based on this Treaty alone. In addition, the Constitutional Treaty should be in force by the next elections to the European Parliament, so that citizens will be able to work with their new rights and, in future, to decide themselves at European elections who the new Commission President should be. This is a decisive contribution to strengthening the role of citizens. I would ask for the support of the House for this strategy, on which the Committee on Constitutional Affairs decided by a large majority.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. I am much obliged to you both, Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok. It is good to see your youthful enthusiasm when it comes to our common future.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commission Vice-President Wallström, ladies and gentlemen. Mr President, I trust I may refrain from commenting on the ages of the two rapporteurs in favour of discussing the content of their speeches. I should like to express my particular thanks to the Presidency and Mr Barón Crespo, and also to Mr Brok, for the roadmap showing the way ahead for discussions on the constitutional process.

The conclusions provide important support for further action by the Council Presidency in the run-up to the June Summit. The support of the European Parliament is also essential for success, and it is important to have Parliament’s full involvement in the discussions on treaty reform. As has been mentioned, Parliament must therefore have sufficient involvement also in the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference.

Mr President, I should like to express once more my very warm gratitude for the constructive cooperation we have enjoyed, which is also reflected in the report presented today. I consider this a balanced report: it strikes the necessary balance between an ambitious result for the European Union and the realism with which this issue has to be approached.

On the one hand, we neither can, nor do we want to, ignore the public vote in France and the Netherlands; on the other, however, the majority of Member States does want to retain the substance of this Treaty. Therefore, I should like to highlight once more at this juncture the special role of the German Presidency as mediator. We want a result acceptable to all Member States – but also, of course, to Parliament. We must take account of the discussions held not only in the Netherlands and France but also elsewhere since the negative outcome of the referendums.

We have to take people’s concerns seriously; but, at the same time – as the discussions have also shown – there are numerous fields in which citizens want to see more Europe, more EU involvement. There has been extensive discussion recently of the issues of energy and the climate, and also of EU common foreign policy and the fight against terrorism and crime in this regard.

There is one fact confirmed by numerous surveys that I consider very important, and that is that the majority of Europeans do not oppose the European Union. They want to see an EU that is capable of action and efficient, that concentrates on the essentials, that really solves the problems it tackles.

It is no secret that agreement has yet to be reached on a series of important issues; to begin with, there are discussions on the future architecture of the treaties. Nor would I be divulging a secret if I said there are proposals for a return to a classic amending treaty. Parliament, too, has expressed its readiness to think about the presentation of future treaties. I am counting on our finding a solution to this that all our partners can support and that also represents clear progress in terms of readability and transparency for citizens.

As Mr Brok, too, has just reiterated, Parliament has always been an active champion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Therefore, Parliament’s support for retaining the Charter, and particularly its legally binding nature, has the agreement of the large majority of Member States.

(Applause)

The European Union, now with 27 Member States, must improve its ability to act and to take decisions in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. As has been said, there is also a consensus on the desirability of a European Union that is more democratic and more transparent. That is why the large majority of Member States wants to retain the substance of the present Constitutional Treaty in its essentials. The majority view is that the institutional package, in particular, cannot be opened, as to do so would be like opening Pandora’s box, so to speak. The practical politics of moving forward are also important, however.

We want a result acceptable to all Member States, but there needs to be a readiness to compromise on all sides for this to succeed. I am counting on there being the common will to move Europe forward together. In this situation, we set particular store, of course, by the support of Parliament for the endeavours of the German Council Presidency to achieve a consensus at the June Summit – which is highlighted in the report.

Allow me to make some further remarks of a procedural nature and on the objectives of the German Presidency. As you know, the consultations have now reached the crucial phase. The dialogue is now mainly being conducted by the Council President, Chancellor Merkel, but also by German Foreign Affairs Minister Steinmeier in a personal capacity. Mr Steinmeier will be informing the House tomorrow about the preparations for the June European Council. As the high-level consultations are still going on, it is too early to present Presidency proposals with any specific content as yet. As I see it, the Council intends to, and can, present such proposals only at a later stage.

Our aims for the June European Council are the achievement of clear guidelines in terms of content for the planned Intergovernmental Conference, and a very precise schedule. The Intergovernmental Conference is to be brought to a close in political terms in 2007 under the Portuguese Presidency. The Treaty is to be signed by the start of 2008 at the latest, thus leaving sufficient time for it to be ratified in all the Member States – and this before the 2009 elections to the European Parliament, of course, which is the important point. Previous talks have revealed a broad consensus on this timetable, for which Parliament’s roadmap, too, makes a call. If we are to keep to this timetable, it is also important that Parliament deliver its opinion pursuant to Article 48 before the summer recess.

I repeat, however: the Presidency is acting as mediator. We need a result acceptable to all. We are holding talks with all the Member States, Parliament and the Commission. I know that much effort at persuasion and much mediation remain to be done, but I am confident. If all 27 Member States always speak of the common challenges, as they did most recently in the Berlin Declaration, I assume this means that all 27 of them want to see success.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. Mr President-in-Office, I believe I can say on behalf of Parliament that we shall deliver our opinion quickly if due consideration is given to the rights of the European Parliament. On that basis we are willing to cooperate closely wherever we can.

 
  
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  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking the rapporteurs, Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok, and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs for this report, and for your work, which adds a major contribution to this very crucial period that we are in. The Commission welcomes your report and shares its main thrust.

Two years after the launch of the reflection period, the world is still changing and the political context has kept changing. The European Union has been able to find a new consensus on some highly political dossiers and issues, such as agreeing a new financial package for the years to come.

However, the difficulties that the Constitutional Treaty was addressing have basically not been solved. The Union is still not able to speak with a single voice in the world arena. We still need to improve democracy, efficiency and the transparency of this Union. We have to ensure a better delivery on key policy areas such as migration or climate change. That is why we are deeply convinced that Treaty changes are still necessary.

We also believe that there is a strong need to communicate better with the citizens on a new Treaty review exercise. This exercise is not about building European construction for its own sake, but about being able to address the increasingly globalised political environment and deliver on policies that really matter to our citizens.

Moving towards a Treaty settlement will be the key issue of the European Council. The German Presidency has made a huge effort in the past months to build a new consensus among the Member States and the European institutions. We support those efforts and we hope that the European Council will be able to agree on the launch of a new intergovernmental conference.

However, we must be very careful: the Constitutional Treaty is a compromise which at this stage is difficult to improve but easy to unravel. Therefore, for new negotiations to be successful, the Intergovernmental Conference needs a to have a clear and stringent mandate and a clear goal in mind, i.e. a new Treaty to be in force before the 2009 European elections.

The Commission will continue to play a central part in reaching a solution. If an intergovernmental conference is to be launched, we will be ready to bring forward our opinion in early July. A new solution should be able to command a true and durable consensus. It should be able to strike a balance between the voices of those who have already ratified the Constitutional Treaty and those who have not.

However, keeping a high level of ambition is also essential. A lowest common denominator solution might bring short-term relief, but it could compound problems in the future. Simply introducing minor institutional changes in the Treaty of Nice will therefore not be sufficient.

The Constitutional Treaty was the fruit of a detailed examination by the Convention; it is the result of a careful compromise agreed by all the heads of state and government and endorsed by the European Parliament. As far as the substance is concerned, the major part of that work remains valid. The innovations introduced by the Constitutional Treaty are still pertinent and they need to be translated into reality. The Community method must be protected, including the Commission’s right of initiative. The single-pillar structure and the single legal personality are tangible instruments to enhance the Union’s capacity to act in a global world. Advances in qualified majority voting and, in general, the enhanced role of the European Parliament should not be questioned.

The Constitutional Treaty also provides a very good solution on how to involve the national parliaments and it strikes a good balance between the role of the national parliaments and that of the European Parliament.

The Commission also remains deeply attached to the binding nature of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and to the substantial innovations on the policies set out in the Constitutional Treaty.

There must be no dilution of the single market, but we are open to examining new ideas for developments in certain policy areas in order to face new or reinforce key policy challenges, such as sustainable development, migration or energy.

The Commission shares the view that the European Parliament should be closely associated with the coming Intergovernmental Conference, at least matching the involvement it enjoyed in the previous IGC. Together we should also continue intensively our efforts to engage citizens and civil society in an effective dialogue about the future of Europe. Together we ought to explain to citizens what is at stake and why a new Treaty settlement is necessary to make the Union capable of facing the challenges of the age of globalisation. This will be even more important in the crucial phase which will begin on the basis of the European Council decisions, and I look forward to working closely with you to make this a reality.

(Applause)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS WALLIS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (ES) Madam President, in a story by Hemingway — the Old Man and the Sea — the protagonist battles to bring a marlin back to port. It is a titanic battle. When he finally reaches port, however, the fish is no longer there, and only its bones remain. That, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, is what this Parliament does not want to happen with the Constitutional Treaty.

We applaud the German Presidency for wanting to reach an agreement, but we wish to tell it clearly that, though we want an agreement, we do not just want any kind of agreement. In the report drawn up by Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok, therefore, we state clearly what we believe to be the essential content of the Constitutional Treaty that that agreement must take up: we state it in paragraph 9.

We also say that we must listen to everybody, but we must not just listen to those people who want less Europe (because there are some people who only want less Europe). Do not just listen to them. Listen also to those who want to improve the Constitutional Treaty. Because all we hear about are reductions, as if the spring sales had arrived in the big stores.

It is possible for an Intergovernmental Conference to improve the Constitutional Treaty: for example, by incorporating issues that were not on the table five years ago, such as climate change, energy or solidarity with regard to energy, or defining the duties of the Anti-Terrorism Coordinator, a very important issue today, following ETA’s announcement that it will go back to killing. Those additions are possible, and we would urge you, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, to include them.

As the President of Parliament said previously, what we want is to help you, and we want the European Parliament also to participate in this Intergovernmental Conference. We do not want to replace you, of course, but in paragraph 12 of the report we define the methods for this Parliament’s involvement.

Finally, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, this Parliament will judge the result of the Intergovernmental Conference in terms of the Constitutional Treaty, and we say this in paragraph 11. We shall have no hesitation in rejecting any agreement reached by the Intergovernmental Conference should it not meet our expectations.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Jo Leinen, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Richard Corbett will shortly address this matter in more specific terms for our group. I should like to express my sincere thanks to the rapporteurs, Enrique Barón Crespo and Elmar Brok, because this report is an entirely accurate reflection of the debate we have been conducting since the double ‘no’ vote two years ago. The message of this report is unequivocal. The substance of what has been negotiated, signed and accepted over the past three years, in other words the substance of the Treaty, must be preserved, but it is incontestable that the presentation of the Treaty may conceivably be altered. To put it quite plainly, the European Parliament rejects a mini-treaty. We are also opposed to the emergence of a mere institutional treaty and to negotiations on a skeleton, on a quarry from which this and that stone can be extracted at will. What we are saying quite clearly is that this Parliament will not accept the outcome of consultations if it would mean less democracy, less transparency, less efficiency and fewer civil rights than the outcome we previously approved.

The irony is that the citizens of Europe, whether in France, the Netherlands or the other countries, actually support change. The Eurobarometer surveys show that the public want more democracy and a more effective Union. They also want the new European policies on energy, health, disaster prevention and mutual assistance in emergencies. For this reason it is incomprehensible that governments should now discard something which parliaments and governments jointly produced. That is out of order, and we will not accept it.

This is also a message to the Intergovernmental Conference. You cannot come up with a formula of your own without consulting this Parliament and without consulting our counterparts in the national parliaments and the general public if that formula differs fundamentally from the Treaty we have been forging over the past four years. We want a ‘Treaty plus’ rather than a ‘Treaty minus’. The view has been expressed here that these issues we have been discussing for two years ought to be put on the agenda. We should talk about that.

We always speak of those who rejected the Treaty. We must also speak of the many who have already given their consent. It cannot be a matter of achieving an outcome at any price. We shall not support that. It must be an instrument of high quality. We wish the German Presidency every success in the pursuit of that goal.

 
  
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  Andrew Duff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Madam President, the ALDE Group strongly supports the Brok/Barón Crespo report and welcomes the clear, strong statements from the Council and the Commission this afternoon. We look forward to playing a part in supporting the Intergovernmental Conference that proceeds sharply to renegotiating and repackaging the Constitutional Treaty with the aim of substantively improving it.

M. Sarkozy brings a refreshing pragmatism to French European policy, and I trust that Mr Brown will replicate M. Sarkozy’s performance when he becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The public mood is turning, especially in the Netherlands and Poland, where we can see a growing realisation that it is not in the interests of those countries to be inside a Union that is too feeble to act.

In conclusion, I think it is possible to draw two principal thoughts from the period of reflection. The first is that we have to strengthen democracy inside the European institutions in Brussels and between the authorities here and national, regional and local governments. The second is that we should devise cleverer and more flexible ways to change the Treaties in future. Countries that still wish to refuse the package may have the legal veto, but they will not have the moral and political authority to block progress for everyone else.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley, thar ceann an Ghrúpa UEN. – A Uachtaráin, maidir le bunreacht nua a chruthú don Aontas Eorpach, tá sé an-thábhachtach go dtabharfar cluas éisteachta do shaoránaigh uilig an Aontais. Ní hiad muintir na Fraince agus na hÍsiltíre amháin atá buartha faoi bhunreacht an Aontais Eorpaigh - tá go leor tíortha eile buartha freisin. Bhí am againn machnamh a dhéanamh ar an mbunreacht le bliain anuas. Caithfidh ceannairí na mBallstát cinneadh a dhéanamh anois ar bhunreacht nua a bhunú ag an gcéad chruinniú eile den Chomhairle.

I would like to thank both rapporteurs, Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok, who have tremendous experience. I thank them for their work with this own-initiative report. It comes at a critical time when the members of the Council need to be edged and pushed in a certain way. That requirement is not because of what we here in Parliament want to see with regard to the future development of the European Union, but because of the necessity to ensure that the voices of the peoples of the European Union are properly reflected at all levels of administration and operation of the European Union in the future.

If anything, the success of the European Union has been the uniqueness of the institutions predicated upon the basis of consensus, compromise and equality, and the need to maintain that kind of balance to ensure that it does not become a two-tier Europe; to ensure that Donald Rumsfeld’s notion of an old and a new Europe will never come to fruition. Rather, we need a Europe working together, le chéile, and cooperating together for the benefit of all the peoples.

However, our primary source must be the agreed text that we already have. Let us look at the uniqueness of the Convention that came up with that text. Let us ensure that we maintain the core of that text whilst at the same time making the necessary adjustments to guarantee that all Member States can agree and sign up to it and that none feel threatened by it.

Our task today is to ensure that the message goes out loud and clear that Parliament supports future developments of the European Treaty that rightly reflect the new Member States and rightly reflect the balances that must be maintained for the successful operation of a Europe of nations of equality.

 
  
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  Johannes Voggenhuber, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Madam President, my group wishes this report a large and convincing majority, and we hope that it will indeed receive that level of support. We thank the rapporteurs for this excellent proposal.

This resolution can assume great significance if the House succeeds in conveying the message to our governments that it is truly prepared to champion the cause of European democracy, that it is truly prepared to defend the enshrinement of the fundamental rights and that it is truly prepared to fight for the dissolution of the pillar structure and the preservation of qualified majority voting in the Constitutional Treaty, even at the risk of having to say ‘no’. In the course of many years, I have experienced many ultimatums in this Chamber and many grandiose gestures and a great deal of shouting from the barricades and many promises to vote ‘no’ if this or that decision did not reflect the public interest. Not once have I ever seen this House actually take to the barricades, vote ‘no’ or act on a single ultimatum. If we do not stand fast on this present ultimatum, however, this House will have to face the judgment of history.

After two years of the period for reflection – whoever might have done any reflecting – the governments have run up lengthy lists of sins. Indeed, we could speak of the Seven Deadly Sins of governments. Parliaments, including this House, have long been excluded from the constitutive process. The public have been sidelined. The process is now taking place behind closed doors. A kind of nationalism is manifesting itself ever more brazenly and blatantly in many Member States across Europe without meeting any real resistance.

The discussion on the amendment of the Treaty is a far cry from the referendums in France and the Netherlands, from the calls for more democracy, for more social responsibility for Europe, for a response to globalisation and for a more effective Union. None of the demands that are on the table today have anything to do with what people have been calling for. They have a great deal to do, however, with what the governments have been calling for loud and long, even in the Convention, namely the assertion of their own authority and the infringement and overturning of the consensus we wrung out of them in the Convention. No longer do we hear of the merits of Europe, of more social responsibility and more democracy.

The governments are misappropriating the referendum results in France and the Netherlands. They are misappropriating them to diminish Europe, to create their own intergovernmental, socially irresponsible Europe. We should not take that lying down. This constitution is a guarantor of European democracy and hence the key to resolving the social issues of the future. I doubt whether the pivotal negotiating principle, which consists in the avoidance of referendums, represents an effective strategy. We shall not overcome this crisis of confidence in Europe if we bypass the people. We can only resolve it by winning them over.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FR) Madam President, in the report by our fellow Members, Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok, we read, in recital H, with regards to the French and Dutch rejection of the draft Constitutional Treaty, the following words: ‘many of the misgivings expressed related to the context, rather than the content, and the issues of major public concern have since been resolved’. That is what is called reassuring oneself on the cheap. The conclusion from such a diagnosis is obvious. It is stated in the first paragraph and I quote: ‘reaffirms its endorsement of the content of the Constitutional Treaty’.

Of course, the report intends to take into account the difficulties that have arisen in certain Member States, but paragraph 6 makes abundantly clear the extent of the concessions that it could agree to when it reaffirms, and I quote, ‘its commitment to achieving a settlement of the ongoing constitutional process of the European Union, that is based on the content of the Constitutional Treaty, possibly under a different presentation’. The similarity of this approach to that suggested in one of the 12 questions that Mrs Merkel addressed last month to the Heads of State or Government is striking. Remember, I quote: ‘what do you think about the proposal to change the wording without changing the substance?’

These three extracts from Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok’s report sum up perfectly the reasons for my group’s disagreement with the text proposed to us. It is no service to Europe to hide from the increasing problems raised by a fundamental part of the acquis communautaire among our citizens, that is, some of the implications of what our Treaties call the open market economy where competition is free.

Three examples: on 22 May last, at the congress of the European Trade Union Confederation, the President of the European Central Bank, Mr Trichet, was able to confirm the truth of this to his cost when his argument for pay restraint in the name of price competitiveness in an open economy was unanimously rejected. A few days earlier, Mr McCreevy, the Commissioner, had a similar experience, this time at the Council, where more and more government representatives asked for privatisation of postal services to be postponed in view of the general public outcry aroused by this draft directive. There again, also, a few days ago, 10 industrial associations that are very vulnerable to global competition accused the Commissioner, Mr Mandelson, of showing free trade zeal with, I quote, ‘unacceptable consequences’.

It is, no doubt, this avalanche of protests that the German Minister for the Economy and Finance, Mr Steinbrück, must have had in mind when he spoke recently of, I quote, ‘a risk of the European economic and social model suffering a crisis of legitimacy’. That is why my group is arguing resolutely in favour of, first of all, a very open public debate about what needs to change in the orientation and structures of the Union, and then for a ratification of the future European Treaty by means of a referendum.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Madam President, the report by Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok is typified by considerable inner conflict and ambiguity. On the one hand, the rapporteurs recognise – albeit with the greatest reluctance – that the Constitution must be amended. I note with satisfaction, therefore, that even the European Parliament is starting to take this fact on board.

On the other hand, I was disappointed to establish that in paragraph 6 – as Mr Wurtz has already mentioned – it is evident to what extent, or should I say to what little extent, they are prepared to amend the Constitution: the substance of the Constitution should not be touched, just the packaging.

I am the first one to admit that it is the members of the Council (including my own Prime Minister) who give reason to believe that a cosmetic change to the Constitution would be acceptable. Despite this, I would urge the European Parliament to change its strategy. Indeed, from the Council, there is increasing indication that it is actually the substance that will be the subject of discussion. If the European Parliament really wants to make a contribution to a successful IGC, as the rapporteurs have indicated several times in their report, it must be prepared to reach compromises regarding the content; if not, the European Parliament will continue to play a minor role in the forthcoming IGC. This is a scenario that does not appeal to me and will not appeal to either of the rapporteurs.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch, on behalf of the ITS Group. (FR) Veritas liberavit vos, says the Gospel according to St John: the truth shall make you free. What is this truth? The truth is that you want to create a European superstate, in spite of Mr Brok’s denials. After all, a political organisation with an international legal personality, with a presidency that is no longer a rotating presidency, with a Ministry for Foreign Affairs, a single currency, an indefinite extension of competences that are no longer allocated by pillar, and, within these competences, a decision by majority: that is called a European superstate!

I quite understand, ladies and gentlemen, that there are those among you, and no doubt they are the majority, who are in agreement with this development. In that case, however, you should be open and honest enough to say so to our compatriots. It is, however, a reality, as we have heard again just now in Mr Brok’s speech, that you are bent on covering it up, and that, I think, is not honest or decent. If you wish to remain within the framework of an international organisation, why not be satisfied with the existing Treaties?

There was the Treaty of Paris which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Then, there was the Treaty of Rome establishing Euratom and the European Economic Community. Later, we were told that we needed to merge the executives of these international organisations to give them more power. We merged them! Later again, in 1986, we were told that we needed the Single European Act so that Europe could really bear all its fruit and fulfil expectations. So we had the Single European Act. No sooner was this Single European Act adopted, than we were told that it was not enough, that we needed the Treaty of Maastricht from which would flow milk and honey. After Maastricht, there was Amsterdam. After Amsterdam, there was Nice. You are involved in a process which aims to create this European superstate. It is contrary to the spirit of Europe, which is the place that invented the freedom and independence of nations. That is the reason why we are resolutely opposed to it.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, ‘no’ is really not a difficult word to understand. The continuing failure to accept the political reality of rejection is epitomised by paragraph 3 of this report. There it notes the concerns expressed by the French and Dutch people. France and the Netherlands did not express concern; they expressed rejection. It is the refusal to face that reality that has embedded the EU in the rut of the past two years.

This report will do nothing to move us on because it still insists on everything which has been rejected, namely the apparatus of statehood for the EU and further diminution in national powers and vetoes. It is those who cannot accept that the Constitution has floundered who are pushing towards a two-speed Europe. If that is what you must have, then go for it. Just leave out of it those states that still want real national control and power. And, even as a quid pro quo, let us repatriate real powers, let us bring them back from Brussels. Then those who want more Europe can have it, and those who want less can have that. But you cannot foist on us all a Constitution already rejected, no matter how you might disguise or repackage it.

 
  
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  Panayiotis Demetriou (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, I should like to congratulate Mr Brok and Mr Crespo, who have succeeded in combining vision and pragmatism in their report.

The vision is to maintain basic elements of the Constitutional Treaty. The pragmatism is for us to be selective and to negotiate among ourselves in order to find a new compromise, but it must be a compromise that maintains the principles and values on which we relied in the Convention on the Future of Europe in order to create the Constitutional Treaty.

You have quite rightly emphasised that human rights cannot be missing from this text, whatever the text decided, and that is quite right, as are the other elements you referred to.

This Parliament must be at the vanguard of efforts to find a solution and way out of the constitutional crisis faced by the European Union. The European Union cannot continue at its present marked pace. The challenges of globalisation are such that, if it does not proceed, quickly and correctly, it will not be able to play the role it needs to play on the basis of our principles and values.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about compromise. When we talk about compromise, we must be balanced and realistic. The 18 states and the 4 states which intend to ratify the Constitutional Treaty as it stands cannot be ready to come to a compromise, while the other states and the citizens of the other states are talking about an unyielding fight on certain points on which their argument is based. We must be correct and we must also be fair. That applies to everyone, both those who have approved the Constitutional Treaty and those who have a certain scepticism.

To close, I believe that the European Union cannot carry on like this; it must go forward, it must give the citizens a future, it must give this Union a future, so that it can move forward.

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE). – Madam President, Mr Allister has just said that the word ‘no’ is not difficult to understand, but equally the word ‘yes’ is not difficult to understand. We are in a situation where a large majority of Member States have said yes. Two have said no, some have a few reservations, but all 27 have agreed to embark on a process of trying to bridge that gap, of trying to find a solution capable of ratification by all 27. This report, which I commend and my group will be supporting, endorses that attempt. We think it is right to make an attempt to bridge that gap and to find a solution capable of ratification by all 27.

This Parliament, elected by the citizens of the European Union, approved the Constitutional Treaty in adopting by an overwhelming majority the report by Mr Méndez de Vigo and myself two years ago. So it is quite natural that we side with the 22 Member States who wish to keep the text as intact as possible. I think that is quite logical. This Parliament would prefer changes of form to sacrificing the content. It would prefer to relinquish the symbols rather than the substance. That is clear and that will no doubt be part of the solution, but it is unlikely to be enough. The issues of the substance of the Constitution will have to be addressed in some cases, perhaps to improve, extend or revise it. But it is essential that we try to keep those practical reforms in the Constitutional Treaty, and it is a collection of very practical reforms – those reforms that make the EU capable of functioning as it continues to enlarge and that improve its democratic accountability. Those are essential and must be kept. The Constitutional Treaty contains such a package of reforms. Let us do our utmost to salvage as many of those reforms as possible.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – (FI) Madam President, I wish Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel every success in her attempts to find a common view regarding the EU Constitution and the EU’s plan of action. You need dreams for such work, but you also need to be realistic. If anyone is to succeed in this I believe that it will be Angela Merkel.

I hope she has taken and will take as her guiding principle what she herself proposed before work began on the Berlin Declaration. Then she hoped and made it a condition that the Berlin Declaration would be something which every European would want and could read. The Constitution should be like that. Nevertheless, I would have liked the preparations by the Member States and at EU level to have observed transparency. The EU does not deserve, it cannot have and it will not have a constitution until it can be drafted openly, and not behind people’s backs.

The clarification and simplification of the Treaties was one of the key objectives set for their revision at the Nice European Council back in 2000. We must now have the courage to admit that this text is not clear: it is a vague and confusing package, and no amount of careful reading makes it sufficiently clear.

Madam President, it would also be interesting to know how many Members of the European Parliament or members of national parliaments have read the entire text of this Constitution: these rules which say how the EU will operate, what its policies will be, its competencies and way of making decisions. I should guess that only a few in this Chamber have read it.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, as things stand, the success of reform of the European Union depends on the flexibility of all parties in the negotiating process. With that in mind, it has to be said that the position presented here is particularly rigid and entrenched. The European Parliament is operating according to a logic that allows no room for compromise, and must therefore bear its share of responsibility for the failure of the Treaty reform process.

Instead of tightening up conditions we now need gestures of goodwill towards the countries that have expressed misgivings concerning the former text of the treaty. If the reform is to be brought to a successful conclusion, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and France must receive a new offer and a more flexible negotiating mandate at the intergovernmental conference as regards representation for Foreign Affairs, the division of competence and also the voting system in the Council. Exerting pressure to prevent this debate can only lead to the loss of further years.

I enjoyed the Hemingway book referred to by Mr Méndez de Vigo, but I understood it quite differently. Had Hemingway's elderly hero chosen a smaller, medium-sized fish he would easily have reached safe harbour and had something to eat. Instead, this character chose far too big a fish, returned to harbour empty-handed and almost lost his life. I would like to spare the European Union similar experiences, and that is why I shall not be supporting this report.

 
  
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  Bernat Joan i Marí (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, we have to make Europe stronger politically. That is one of the main tasks of the European Parliament.

For the European Free Alliance, ‘more’ Europe means more opportunities for freedom for stateless nations, constitutional regions and national minorities. Europe is the main field in which we can work and be together. For this reason, we need not only a Treaty, but also a Constitution for Europe in the future. Therefore, we must support a reform of the Treaty in order to make Europe stronger and to make the concept of European citizenship a common goal for all Europeans. For that reason, in future the EU has to speak with a single voice on key issues, such as immigration, security, climate change and employment.

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL). – (FI) Madam President, the European Parliament is now adopting a position with reference to its committee’s own initiative report on something that is not within its competence, neither in terms of the content or the end result. Accordingly, the report is europropaganda in favour of a constitution in an area where the political elite are out of touch with the people. According to an opinion poll covering the whole of the EU, 75% of EU citizens would like a referendum on the Constitution, in which the people in 11 of the old Member States would reject it.

My own country, Finland, has ratified the defunct agreement, and that was done against the will of the people. A new opinion poll commissioned by our group in Finland shows that Finns are opposed to a constitution throughout the country as a whole: in all age groups, all professions and all political parties. The European Parliament is taking the side of the Constitution against the opinion of people in many countries. That will not improve its legitimacy or the legitimacy of the Constitution in Member States. One should have the courage to ask the opinion of the people.

The spirit of the game is clear in the secret list of 12 questions the German Presidency sent the Member States: let us change the terminology but keep the old content. The new proposal for a Constitution is thus a mere conjuring trick.

 
  
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  Vladimír Železný (IND/DEM).(CS) Madam President, the report before us constitutes an attempt at raising the dead, which in this case means the Constitution that the French people killed and that the Dutch people so enthusiastically buried.

The problem, however, is that the eurocrat elite has no intention of taking that simple fact on board. The process has therefore begun of expelling from the decision-making process one of its less manageable elements, in other words the citizens of the Member States. This idea was expressed in a secret questionnaire that the German Presidency sent out to the governments of the Member States. One point on the questionnaire openly includes the question: ‘what if we were to adopt under a different name a document with the same content and the same legally binding nature as the Constitution?’ It could not have been put more bluntly. Furthermore, in order not to sound so coarse, we throw in a little climate-related alarmism, and for the more stubborn ones an enhanced form of energy solidarity as a sweetener, so that they will have something to show to the folks back home. More importantly, we remove the right of veto from the small countries and secure a new majority for the big countries. Then we name it in such a way that we will no longer have to hold a referendum.

The authors of the report prefer to overlook the fact that Germany has yet to ratify the Constitution, and they do so because the President’s signature will be sufficient to ratify it. They also overlook the fact that the Constitution was ratified by just 16 of the 27 Member States, accounting for just 37% of the population of the EU. And they overlook the fact that the two year deadline has expired, by which at least 80% of the Member States were to have ratified the Constitution in order for the process to continue. And finally, they overlook the fact that this requirement was laid down in a Constitution that was forced on the new Member States as part of their accession agreements.

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE-DE). – (NL) Madam President, I should first of all like to thank both rapporteurs for their efforts.

The report is ambivalent in that it emphatically supports the core components of the Constitutional Treaty, whilst also taking the developments of recent years into account, even though this could have been done to a greater extent. After all, the public is critical of the functioning of Europe, and this is not just in the Netherlands and France. It is very important that this Parliament, too, give due account to this criticism. Fortunately, there is now increasing support in Europe for the idea that things have to change. Out with the Constitution.

The report can count on our support, even though we have problems with a few paragraphs. We support the report because it stands up for the core elements of the Constitutional Treaty. At the same time – and this is something which is being denied by some – it also opens the door to change: clarification of the term ‘subsidiarity’, no constitutional traits, no European state and, with regard to a number of problems we face in this day and age, more ambition at European level, and also the participation of the public and the role of the national parliaments. This role should, however, show due respect for the role of this House.

A Europe just on our terms does not exist. We need to come out the other end together, and we should be able to manage this under female guidance. I should like to wish Angela Merkel, and also our own Mr Poettering and Commission President Barroso, much success, and we must all support them in order to bring this situation to a satisfactory conclusion.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR POETTERING
President

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, Mr Brok and Mr Barón Crespo have prepared a good report that deserves our full support. I endorse it wholeheartedly and will be voting in favour of it. Through this report, the European Parliament is sending out a signal that the House wants a Union like the one described in point nine of the report, namely a more efficient Union that functions better and cares about its citizens' rights.

We are sending out a signal to the intergovernmental conference saying that we support the 18 countries that have ratified the Treaty and align ourselves with them. Nonetheless, we also recognise the need for changes that are a sine qua non for the remaining countries to proceed to ratification, and have an open mind on the subject. The changes are outlined in point 12 of the resolution. I am especially pleased to note that the aforementioned point contains a reference to energy solidarity, which is particularly important for my country.

Point five of the report recalls the political responsibility of the Member States that have signed the Treaty. I should like to add that those countries also bear a legal responsibility under international law, notably to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. My country, Poland, has not yet ratified the European Constitution, but a large majority of Poles support Europe. The Polish people are amongst the most pro-European societies on record. I believe that the German Presidency's motto according to which we must build Europe together should be addressed to governments, not to the citizens. The latter have long been convinced of its truth.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (UEN).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is a report that is still going down the wrong road of administering heroic treatment to try to keep alive a Constitution that has been rejected by the peoples and then upheld by the great patriots of federalism, such as the Italian Prime Minister, Mr Prodi, who is denying the north of Italy, Padania, internal federalism in terms of taxes so that it can obtain justice from ‘thieving Rome’.

The report before us sidesteps the issue of the criteria for limiting enlargement, which in fact, as Prime Minister Balkenende has rightly pointed out, lies at the heart of the political debate on Europe. Instead of quibbling over these legal subterfuges, Europe should focus on its practical problems and summon its energies to protect production, work and jobs, for instance by responding to the specific, weighty concerns of European industries with facts rather than with vague bureaucratic jargon, as Mr Mandelson has done. Our industries are demanding to be protected against the stop that our ultraliberal trade Commissioner has put on antidumping measures since the beginning of this year.

Our businesses and jobs are suffering on account of these wrong decisions, which have been further aggravated by today’s decision by the European Central Bank to increase minimum lending rates. The decisions made by Brussels are wrong because they slow down our journey towards progress, jobs and the welfare of Europe and are therefore divorced from the deeply-held feelings and opinions of European citizens who pay their taxes partly to maintain Brussels.

 
  
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  Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, the Presidency of the Council will have to square the circle at the summit. Since European integration will only succeed if all Member States pull together, I believe the only possible way out of the crisis on the constitution is to give the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference a mandate with clear terms of reference and a clear timetable.

The only possible starting point for negotiations is the existing text of the Constitutional Treaty. It bears the signatures of all 27 Heads of State or Government. Two thirds of all Member States, representing a majority of the population of the Union, have ratified it in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Let me express my firm support for paragraph 11 of the report, which states that any outcome of the negotiations which, if compared with the Constitutional Treaty, would lead to a diminution of the protection of fundamental rights as well as to less democracy, transparency and efficiency in the functioning of the Union will be rejected. This applies particularly to any erosion of the welfare state. The clause of general application of social policy in Part III of the Constitutional Treaty, for example, must be non-negotiable. The same applies to the values referred to in Article 1(2), in which the Union is defined as a community based on common values. It is a good thing that our Parliament is showing the red card to all those who seek to withdraw into the shell of national sovereignty under cover of the ‘no’ votes in France and the Netherlands.

The downright ridiculous shadow-boxing with the symbols of European integration must also be stopped. People in Europe do not want arguments about flags or anthems; what they want are bold solutions that bring progress. We therefore need a ‘Constitution-plus’ solution, especially for the sake of reinforcing the European social model.

 
  
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  President. Thank you, Mrs Kaufmann. If I may make a brief comment, when I visited the Knesset last week I was welcomed by a band playing the European anthem. In view of everything that is going on just now, we should certainly consider whether we should not be doing that here in the European Parliament too.

 
  
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  Witold Tomczak (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, advocates of the European Constitution are making a consistent effort to transform the European Community and Union into a continental superstate. This is the main difficulty with the European Constitution. Such an approach is not in the interests of the nations of Europe. Despite the many democratic declarations made, it will amount to the first step on the slippery slope towards totalitarianism on our continent.

The gradual elimination of the political functions of contemporary national structures is a very dangerous development. A take-over of the political functions of nation states by supra-national structures will be detrimental to the cultural heritage of individual nations. In the longer term, it will lead to the disappearance of sovereign nations. An end must therefore be put to the suicidal processes of building a European superstate. The European Constitution and all its replacements must be rejected. The free nations of Europe do not need the Constitution in order to cooperate.

A debate must be launched immediately on how to guarantee the rights of nations in the contemporary world, notably in Europe. It is characteristic of the advocates of the European Constitution to avoid the use of the term sovereignty, as if they were horrified by it. In their mercy they offer us the right to an identity, but one can retain that even when one is deprived of freedom. The European Constitution amounts to an attack on sovereignty. It is a threat to the sovereignty of nation states, to their freedom and self-determination. I call on the House to allow nations to live in freedom. The nations of Europe wish to retain sovereign states!

 
  
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  Maria da Assunção Esteves (PPE-DE).(PT) At the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference the EU must look to the future, and must look into the very essence of its being. It was here in Europe that the enlightenment proclaimed the transcendent value of human dignity and prescribed a union of people to bring this value to life.

As long ago as the 18th century, Kant set down the maxims for eternal life and said that the national constitutions of countries cannot accomplish their tasks without the appropriate external order. Modernity is built on anthropocentric politics, on flexible institutions and on power as a conduit of justice.

The European Constitution is one of the tasks ahead of us that can enable us to accomplish, during our lifetime, the modernity of which Europe is the cradle. Do we not want a project of justice that is only possible if underpinned by political sharing? If so, then the Constitution is the answer. It provides the foundation for large-scale democracy, for strengthening Parliament’s power, for restoring the balance between the centre and the Member States, for the Charter of Fundamental Rights, for political work within a network, and for rules on decision-making that confer governability and effectiveness, with a view to achieving a human and open Europe.

The world is, with increasing frequency, confronting us with new realities. The political elites have a responsibility to build new paradigms and to define new ways of living. As we proceed along this path to consensus – and, at this point, I should like to pay tribute to the efforts of Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok – I am saddened by the devaluation of the symbols of Europe. It is not as though this responds to any real cause for concern among the citizens. Rather, it responds to spectres raised in random, extremist discourse. Europe is in a phase of re-establishing its foundations and now is not the time to do away with its symbolic dimension. Paul Valéry once said that Europe would be built only under the threat of decline.

Perhaps we could retort that Europe is being built by moral will and serene reason. One thing is for sure, when it comes to this odyssey, there can be no room for half measures.

 
  
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  Carlos Carnero González (PSE). – (ES) We shall not tire of saying that the European Constitution is not the problem, but rather the solution.

I believe that those of us who were in the Convention can state that the Constitution that we drew up there is actually the best possible solution. For three reasons at least: because of the consensus it achieved, because of the significant advances it contains and also because it will enable us to complete the Political Union.

What we now have to do — and this is the aim of the report by Mr Barón and Mr Brok — is rescue it; not mess it up, not confuse it, not turn it — to use a word from Italian politics — into the ‘cosa [thing]’. We need a constitution, not a ‘cosa’ that is indefinable.

To that end, I believe that we need to bear three factors in mind. Firstly, the message. I do not like the idea of stopping calling it a ‘Constitution’. I do not like the idea of getting rid of symbols. I do not even like the idea of changing its form in order to make it incomprehensible. If we have no choice but to do that, however, we must at least save its content. That content includes something that we forget to mention all too often: the extension of codecision and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Furthermore, in view of the procedure, do we in this Parliament realise that we are talking about a process to rescue the Constitution that is too secretive, that is too intergovernmental? At the end of the day, we are talking about what we want, but we often do not know what we are talking about.

I believe that the European Parliament must address the governments clearly, stating what this report says, but it must also address the national parliaments.

If we reject the result of the IGC, we shall also call upon those parliaments to act accordingly.

Let us act consistently, this time at least.

 
  
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  Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM).(EL) Mr President, what Europe needs most of all is light. More light. We are leaving shadows. Shadows in decisions, in methods and in what we ultimately want to achieve. Of course, we need democracy even more than we need light. We do not address the people. A worker in Poland or a farmer in Greece or a doctor in Belgium has no idea what is finally happening with this Constitution. We need democracy. We must not be afraid of the people. We must address the people and find out what their opinion is. All of them, on the same day, in a general referendum. We decide on behalf of the people. The 27 leaders, who are leaders today but will not be tomorrow, cannot decide on the fate of the people of Europe over the centuries.

I am from Athens, the city where democracy was born. That is where the Pnyx was. That was where decisions were taken and anyone who ignored the people was exiled. The peoples of Europe will exile all of us one day if we do not meet their expectations of democracy and justice.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I have three points. Firstly, it is important that we do not let the problems with the new Treaty overshadow developments in the European Union and our achievements. In a way, our achievements are the best arguments for a new Treaty. They give us new responsibilities and underline the need for new power to make decisions. If the European Union were a failure, no one would have turned to us to deal with climate change or to contribute to stability in the Balkans. We would have had no new applications for membership. Let us not forget that achievements are the main arguments for a new Treaty.

Secondly, we must ensure that the new Treaty results from political challenges and not from different political symbols. We must be able to welcome new Members and to have clear, democratic control and accountability with regard to the common decisions we make. We must have the opportunity to make the necessary decisions in order to fight crime, to meet the challenges of environmental and energy policy and to secure stability in our neighbourhood and in other parts of the world where it is needed.

Thirdly, we need to understand and make sure that it is more important to have a common foreign policy than a common foreign minister. It is more important to be able to make crucial decisions than to have an elected President of the European Council. It is more important to ensure that we are able to make decisions in all the areas where we face challenges today. That is more important than symbols are. We need a Treaty, not necessarily exactly the one under discussion.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I think that if this Parliament wants to do something worthwhile at this stage, it must defend the Charter of Fundamental Rights, because I think it will be the sick child of the outcome of the negotiations between the Heads of State or Government. I think too that the report presented to us by our fellow Members, Mr Enrique Barón Crespo and Mr Elmar Brok, opens, in paragraphs 12 and 17, a future way forward on which we must rely. These paragraphs say that our citizens’ expectations are about fundamental matters not institutional issues. Paragraph 17 calls on the Commission to modernise and to adapt, in return for certain modifications, the text which is before us today, taking those expectations into account. That is the issue at stake.

The issue is that the European Council’s conclusions on 8 March should be incorporated into our policies so that the Union is able to function in such a way as to realise the policies that our citizens expect. These policies are concerned with environmental coherence, with the ability to face up to the energy challenges that confront us, and expectations in social terms.

That is the reality of the issues at stake and that is the reason why what Mr Enrique Barón Crespo and Mr Elmar Brok are proposing to us is, in my opinion, acceptable as long as people are not being taken for idiots. Contenting oneself with proposing to them a change in the presentation of the text, imagining that it is only the context that could have made some nations say no, would not be in keeping with the reality of the vote of these nations. I hope that it is in this direction that the House will vote tomorrow.

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE). – Mr President, it is clear that the starting point for any Treaty revision exercise must be the current text of the Constitution for a simple reason: it was signed by all Member States. Surely if a signature means something then they have to show commitment to it, and it was also ratified by 18 Member States. From that starting point we should seek a compromise that takes into account three factors.

The first is the concerns of those countries that have rejected it, and the concerns of those countries that have still not ratified it. The second is that we should take into account some mistakes that we may have made – and yes, we may have made some mistakes along the way. For instance, we may have gone too fast and too far in signing a constitution just five months after the greatest and biggest enlargement of the European Union, or by appearing too ambitious not least by the designation of the Treaty as a Constitution when originally our mandate was a mere simplification.

Thirdly and finally, the point we should take into account is that the compromise must also take into account the new reality in which we live and the new challenges that we face and which may not have been sufficiently taken into account by the Constitution. I have in mind, for instance, a common immigration policy and a common approach to climate change. Yes, the Germany Presidency, and the Portuguese Presidency after it, have a fine balancing act to strike and we wish them luck. They certainly need it!

 
  
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  Jan Andersson (PSE). – (SV) Thank you very much, Mr President. I want to begin by thanking the rapporteurs for having put forward a well-balanced proposal whereby the European Parliament sticks to its views on the Treaty but, at the same time, is realistic and understands that changes will take place. These changes must not take place at the cost of only a mini-treaty, involving solely institutional issues, being adopted. Account must be taken not only of the two countries that have rejected the Constitutional Treaty but also of all those countries that have said ‘yes’ to it. A new Treaty must reflect those issues that people think are important.

The climate threat needs to feature in it, as does social Europe, and it is important – as others too have said – that it be possible to implement enlargement. I do not, however, believe that the solution is to introduce the Copenhagen criteria into the Treaty. Instead, institutional reforms are required. Moreover, it is important that we not only talk about transparency in Europe. The process that is now just getting under way must be an open one involving dialogue with Europeans, so that we might conduct a debate while the process continues.

Next, I have something to say to the far right, which often makes a point of preaching intergovernmental collaboration as opposed to supranationalism. The far right has put forward the most supranationalist proposals of all and wants to force the Member States to hold referendums. The fact is, it is for the Member States themselves to decide how they are to deal with this Constitutional Treaty. The forces of the right have gone much too far in this instance.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE). – Proiectul Europa a avut succes iar datoria noastră este să-i oferim mijloacele pentru a funcţiona bine şi în viitor. Din acest motiv, proiectul are nevoie de un fundament clar, transparent, solid şi eficient asumat prin consens, prin voinţa şi experienţa politică şi democratică a tuturor membrilor săi, deoarece obiectivul nostru comun este mai presus de orgoliile şi de temerile individuale. Pentru a fi cu adevărat solidari pentru dezvoltare durabilă, cooperare, extindere şi coeziune avem nevoie de instituţii solide şi eficiente care să ne garanteze funcţionarea, avem nevoie de o politică de securitate şi apărare comună, de o politică externă comună. Acceptarea unui acord politic de bază chiar şi într-o formă restrânsă, precum şi continuarea politicii de vecinătate vor face ca Uniunea Europeană să crească şi să se dezvolte nu numai pentru sine, ci şi cu toate statele din jur, oferindu-le astfel nu numai promisiuni, ci şi exemplul elocvent că numai împreună ne putem dezvolta cu adevărat. De aceea consider că iniţiativa raportorilor este extrem de bine venită şi sper că la Consiliul din iunie se va ţine cont de opiniile exprimate în acest raport.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (PSE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, today’s report has emerged during the German Presidency and I should therefore like first to thank our German friends for their considerable efforts in persuading the Council at its June summit to make a commitment to calling an intergovernmental conference and to implementing a working plan with the clear aim of reaching agreement by the end of this year.

Following its historic enlargement to 27, the EU needs a new Constitutional foundation. It needs instruments with which it can function effectively and democratically. It needs resources with which it can meet the citizens’ concerns on issues such as globalisation, illegal migration and the security of energy supplies.

These instruments and resources are, to some extent, contained in the draft Constitutional Treaty ratified by two thirds of the Member States. Four other states have confirmed their commitment to ratifying it and to retaining the fundamental principles and content of this document. This clear majority, this coalition of forces, should form the basis for further negotiation the outcome of which must not, under any circumstances, lead to reduced protection for human rights or limits on the democratic and effective functioning of the Union.

Lastly, I should like to call on the governments of the three countries that have not yet ratified the Constitution, including my own, the Czech Republic, to honour what they have signed up to and put the document to their citizens for approval. And if they are afraid of their citizens, then they should at least stop hindering those who are trying to deliver a constructive, quick and democratic solution.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, we have received a great deal of advice in the constitutional debate over the past few months, some of it good, some well-meant and some that was not even well-meant. The weirdest of the proposals was surely the idea of removing the Charter of Fundamental Rights from the body of the Treaty and keeping it alive, at least technically, by means of a reference. At first sight, it might seem that this proposal was well-meant. It would certainly suit anyone who wants a simple, easily readable text. Having 65 fewer articles is perhaps quite important in view of the poor reading levels that the Pisa study identified in this Europe of ours. On closer inspection, however, the situation looks completely different.

What is at stake when we speak of fundamental rights? It is about the protection of the individual from those who have power – no more and no less. That has been, and must remain, one of the most historically important missions of any community. This is precisely why the proposal to play down the Charter of Fundamental Rights, to make it small and as invisible as possible, is so disturbing.

For years in Austria we have had a charity known as Licht ins Dunkel – ‘Light into the Darkness’. It serves to help the weaker members of society, especially at Christmas time but not only then. We also need a ‘Light into Darkness’ campaign for the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and I am glad that very many speakers in today’s debate have stressed the need to stay on the ball with regard to the issue of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and to ensure that we have a Constitutional Treaty as a cornerstone of our future Community law.

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much. And the whole thing by Christmas, Reinhard Rack!

 
  
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  Margrietus van den Berg (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, only a new Treaty can make the EU more democratic and more decisive. The Dutch ‘no’ in 2005 was not a ‘no’ to Europe: 72% of the Dutch consider European cooperation to be valuable. This is why it would be a disaster for the Netherlands if we were to remain stuck in a ‘no’ without any alternatives, as the Dutch Socialist Party is at risk of doing. Hence my five-point plan for a new Treaty to do justice to the Dutch ‘no’ and to tempt the majority of the Dutch back to the ‘yes’ camp.

One: a democratic Europe, fewer vetoes, more codecision for this House, openness of decision-making, goodbye to Strasbourg, improved cooperation between the EP and national parliaments, but not a red card that jumbles up the powers of both.

Two: a more social Europe. Include a social clause that spells out that public and semi-public provisions are not inferior to the market but can be fleshed out according to the insights of national Member States and regions. Make the Charter of Fundamental Rights binding.

Three: a Europe of the citizens and the regions thanks to more decentralisation and enhanced subsidiarity. Give frontier areas and the regions the chance to test things out. Give European citizens the right to add items to the agenda by means of petitions.

Four: include in the new Treaty more rigorous accession criteria in order to avoid cheating. In the case of any further enlargement, we must put our own European house in order first.

Five: cut the new Treaty down considerably by referencing all simplifications. This will trim it down by 322 articles. Also, let the Treaty be a Treaty, because the Constitution gave the Dutch the feeling they were losing their own Constitution.

In this way, the Netherlands can re-assume its position in the vanguard of Europe, where we, based on our own interests and our own ideals, belong.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Madam Vice-President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to offer my sincere thanks once again to the two rapporteurs who laid the foundations for today’s debate. I also welcome what appears to me to be broad support for this project for a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, on which we still have a fair bit of work to do.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo began by citing Hemingway’s tale of the fisherman and the huge fish that was nothing but bones by the time it was brought ashore. Perhaps the fisherman lacked the technical facilities that would have enabled him to land the large live fish safely. We who face these formidable challenges today, however, have all the facilities at our disposal. We have recognised that this European Union must organise itself differently to improve its decision-making capacity and to deal with issues which differ from those that were on the agenda ten or fifteen years ago.

It would be a pity if this work that has been done and approved over the past few years were suddenly rejected. Let me say quite explicitly, as someone who, until recently, had always been a back-bencher, that it is wrong to use words loosely in this kind of debate. No one is foisting anything on anyone. It was the will of Members of Parliament, following the experience of Nice, to convoke a Convention, on which many Members of Parliament wanted to serve, to create a new treaty.

The wish was unequivocally expressed that parliamentarians from countries which were not yet members of the European Union should also take part. It is wrong to cite examples now to try and demonstrate that there was some sort of compulsion involved. The fact that there was a wish to involve those countries, so as to ensure that they did not have a treaty foisted on them, was a reflection of precisely that democratic will which distinguishes this European Union.

In recent days it has been said time and again that the German Presidency wants success. Of course we want success, but not for ourselves. We want it for this European Union, because on 25 March we placed on record the challenges we face and the fact that we need new instruments to deal with climate change and energy problems. And anyone who demands more solidarity from the European Union on the climate and energy must naturally ensure that the means to achieve that goal are in place. I therefore thank you for your broad support. We hope, as one honourable lady said, that the Heads of State or Government obtain a clear mandate with a fixed timetable for the Intergovernmental Conference.

 
  
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  President. Thank you, Mr Gloser. We wish the German Presidency success for the sake of the Europe in which we all share. If Europe succeeds, the Presidency will have succeeded too. That would be an almost perfect outcome.

 
  
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  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, two women are always present at our discussions on a new institutional settlement and a new treaty: Mrs Merkel, who represents hope for a way forward, but also Pandora and her box, which we hope will not be opened. You will remember that the one thing that remained in Pandora’s Box was hope. When everything else had escaped from the box, there was still hope. We have to hope for a new settlement. We also have to use the window of opportunity we have right now.

I was looking at our visitors, our guests and spectators, and wondering what they thought about this debate. Do they think it is a matter of weighing ‘no’ votes against ‘yes’ votes or of us trying to explain why it is so important to maintain the political investment that has gone into finding a way to take European Union decisions in a more efficient, open and transparent way? This is what nobody wants to lose at the moment. We do not want to lose several years of discussions and negotiations and the time invested in this whole process, because we want to give the European Union a stronger voice on the global scene. We want to decide who does what, following the enlargement of the European Union from 15 to 27 Member States within a few years, and we need to decide on the policies, the new challenges facing us on energy, climate and migration.

It has to do with the way we work, take decisions and act together. This is what we need to resolve: we are discussing institutional matters because they go hand-in-hand with the policy content.

We have invested too much simply to lose it all. We hope that the German Presidency will help us find a solution and we in the Commission are willing to help. We hope that, with everyone’s help, citizens will feel informed and we will have been able both to listen and to explain clearly what we want to do. Together we can do that.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  John Attard-Montalto (PSE), in writing. The process for a Constitutional Treaty was stalled through the referenda in France and the Netherlands. Some Member States continued with the ratification process, others did not. We went into a period of reflection.

Today the Constitutional Treaty is once again gaining momentum. The roadmap is indicating a Constitution by 2009, before the next elections for the European Parliament.

When the Constitution was rejected, everyone had their opinions. One which appeared throughout was that many citizens of Europe felt alienated.

First of all, a European Constitution is essential if one believes in the European process.

Secondly, the citizens of the European Union Member States must feel that they belong to the EU entity in the same way that they feel nationals of their respective states.

Thirdly, it is essential that these citizens know what the Constitution is all about.

I have listed these priorities, since not all the European Member States share the same enthusiasm for the process. Many Europeans do not feel citizens of the EU in parallel with their individual nationality. Finally, most Europeans are still unaware of the pros and cons of the Constitution. Unless we earnestly address these issues within two years we may well end up in the same position we are in today.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. (FR) I welcome the Motion for a European Parliament Resolution, whose co-rapporteurs are Mr Elmar Brok (PPE), from Germany, and Mr Enrique Barón Crespo (PSE), from Spain, on the European Union’s constitutional process. This policy document will be very useful for the German Presidency, whose role, under Angela Merkel’s impetus, is remarkable, for setting its roadmap at the time of the next European Council on 20 and 21 June 2007.

This motion recognises, at last, that the European people and their representatives sitting in the European Parliament must be more closely involved in the institutional process. If we want to move from a technocratic Europe towards a political Europe, we must stop having a Europe concocted in Embassy drawing rooms and so pass from a diplomatic Europe to a democratic Europe.

I welcome also the perceptiveness of the new President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, who proposes a simplified institutional treaty. That is the only way for us to progress and hope to change our institutions with the prospect of going to the European elections in June 2009 with new rules. We have to invent the plan B that has never existed and reason must prevail over dogmatism and other demagogic positions. The Europe of the people is on the move.

 
  
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  Alexandra Dobolyi (PSE), in writing.(HU) According to the Constitutional Treaty, the Union’s aim is to promote peace, fundamental values, and the well-being of the people of its Member States, as well as establishing an area without internal boundaries that provides freedom and security to its citizens, achieving balanced economic growth and enhancing solidarity among Member States.

The ‘pause for reflection’ has, with the German Presidency, come to an end. Berlin was given the task of laying the foundations for the creation of the new treaty at the June 2007 summit. If the June summit is successful, the Member States will give a mandate to the upcoming Portuguese Presidency to convene an intergovernmental conference with the objective of having the complete text of the new treaty ready by the end of the year.

Inasmuch as the Member States will be able to agree on the new treaty, the opportunity will be there for the new European Parliament and European Commission, to be set up in 2009, to begin working on more effective, transparent and democratic foundations. This encompasses more rapid decision making, an unambiguous determination of the competences of the various European Union institutions and of the Member States, respect for subsidiarity and the reinforcement of the equality of Member States. Furthermore, a solution will have to be found in order that more attention may at last be paid to the tools and community policies necessary for achieving our common goals. Joint success depends first and foremost on the political will to act in concert.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) The first issue that should be raised in this debate is that we must not overlook the fact that the draft Constitutional Treaty lapsed when it was rejected by the referendums held in France and the Netherlands in 2005. Any amendment to the current Treaty therefore means restarting the entire process, and any proposal on a new Treaty should be put to the voters in referendums to be held in each of the Member States on dates to be decided by the national authorities concerned.

This, though, is not what the rapporteurs have done. They have reiterated their support for the so-called draft Constitutional Treaty and are thus trying to influence the decision taken at the European Council of 21 and 22 June. This is something to which we are vehemently opposed.

As far as we are concerned, we wish to restate our opposition to a document that advocates neoliberalism, deeper militarisation and even greater concentration of power, which will be achieved by enshrining an upper echelon of the major EU powers at the cost of reducing democracy and diminishing the influence of the people and institutions of the small and medium-sized Member States.

We are in favour of a more democratic, fairer Europe that is characterised by solidarity, a Europe that promotes peace and cooperation with people from all parts of the world, a Europe that complies with the principle of sovereign States with equal rights.

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE), in writing. – When the European Council meets on 21 to 22 June, EU Heads of State will have quite a challenge ahead of them. In effect, they will need to hammer out a relatively conclusive compromise on the main points of contention regarding Europe's institutional and constitutional future. They cannot afford to fail in this duty and subsequently start to backtrack on areas where the various national interests had to give ground.

If they are successful and manage to agree on the main political sticking points, thereby paving the way for a relatively short Intergovernmental Conference to sort out the details, the moment could be the high point in the European Council's existence thus far. It will have legitimised itself beyond any doubt and, in an instant, brushed off the inertia that has characterised top-level EU decision-making in recent years.

I sincerely hope EU leaders rise up to this challenge. Everyone knows what is necessary: retaining the large majority of the Constitutional Treaty and dealing with the concerns that led to the two failed referenda in 2005. It is time to mobilise this consensus with the appropriate political will.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE), in writing. – (DE) With regard to the discussion on the road map for the EU constitutional process, I welcome the express reiteration of support by the European Parliament for the substance of the Constitutional Treaty and the clear confirmation of that support in the draft resolution. I, too, would like to stress that two thirds of the Member States have ratified the Constitutional Treaty and that we, as representatives of the people, have a political responsibility to listen to the voices of all the Member States.

Accordingly, I call for the preservation of all of the fundamental principles enshrined in Part I of the Constitutional Treaty.

I believe everyone will agree with me that the Constitutional Treaty contains major improvements in terms of consolidating the existing Treaties and merging the pillars, recognising the values on which the European Union is built, giving binding force to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and guaranteeing public participation in political life.

For these reasons I support the efforts of the German Presidency of the Council to broker an agreement on the production of a road map by the end of this year and, echoing the report, I call for the completion of the process of ratifying the new Treaty before the end of 2008.

In this context, I call on the Commission both to play its full part in the forthcoming negotiations and to involve the European Parliament in them.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE), in writing. I would like to congratulate my colleagues Mr Barón Crespo and Mr Brok for this report that takes into account three aspects I would like to highlight.

Firstly, the Constitutional Treaty has sailed on troubled waters. We have the friends of the Constitution, namely the 18 who have ratified it and others for whom ratification would not be a problem. However, we also have friends in trouble: France and the Netherlands. Then we have sceptical friends, the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Therefore we need leadership. Fortunately there is Chancellor Merkel, whom I wholeheartedly trust.

Secondly, we need to set up a clear mandate for the IGC leading to a solution before the 2009 elections. The report addresses this.

Thirdly, we want the final Treaty to capture the essential substance of the draft Constitution. These are the institutional innovations, the legal personality, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Foreign Service. I do not care so much about symbols.

We need the Constitutional Treaty for the EU to be more democratic, more transparent and more efficient.

Therefore, I give my full support to this report.

 
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