Lunch Debate with Andrew DUFF: “How to Rescue the European Constitution”
Andrew DUFF, MEP, Spokesperson for Constitutional Affairs of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, presented an action plan describing how the core elements of the European Constitutional Treaty can be rescued despite the current problems in the ratification process. In doing so, he explained his proposals in terms of the methods and decision processes for the implementation of his ideas, the time frame envisioned and the core points of his plan.
Although Duff participated in both the Fundamental Rights Convention and the Constitutional Convention and is from these personal experiences a big supporter of the convention method, he expressed the opinion that the time of conventions is over. A new convention would hardly allow itself a limited mandate and would thus reopen a Pandora’s box in a number of points for which a consensus has long been attained. In contrast, the classical path of an intergovernmental conference is better suited to reach solutions in the medium-term. He proposed to allow the European Parliament to participate in the intergovernmental conference in the form of a “constitutional co-decision”. Doing this would allow the conference to profit from the competence of the European Parliament and reach compromises in spite of pronounced international and interfactional conflicts of interest.
Regarding the timeframe, Duff said that the German Council Presidency in the first semester of 2007 will be the first presidency since the failed referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005 to dedicate itself vigorously to a solution to the current crisis. The way will thus be prepared for the Portuguese Council Presidency in the second semester of 2007 to call an intergovernmental conference. During the French Council Presidency in the second half of 2008, it will be necessary to conclude the intergovernmental conference with a convincing solution.
- Expansion of European economic governance with a strong role for the European Commission
- Creation of a framework for the societal organisation of the European social model
- Increasing the importance of environmental protection policy
- Making more precise and more concrete treaty stipulations in the areas of enlargement and cohesion
- Creation of a credible and just financial basis for the EU.
For the upcoming German Council Presidency, Duff called it an important goal to avoid a continuing debate on “cherry picking”. It is also necessary to counter the expectation that there is an easy solution to the ratification crisis. Germany must be conscious of the fact that under no circumstances will France and the Netherlands put the Constitutional Treaty in its current form to another national vote. Each further initiative must be carefully thought through: According to Duff, another failure of the Constitutional Treaty would be inexcusable to future generations.
By: Timo Goosmann