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Lunch Debate with Andrew DUFF: “How to Rescue the European Constitution”

left to right: Mathias Jopp (IEP), Andrew Duff, MEP

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.

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