ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE FUTURE OF EUROPE
Certain arrangements for the debate on the future of the European Union.
||25 April 2001|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||27 April 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||20 June 2001|
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 20 June 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
46.1 Declaration No. 23 annexed to the Treaty
of Nice calls for "a deeper and wider debate about the future
development of the European Union". The Declaration says
"The process should
address, inter alia, the following questions:
" how to establish and monitor a
more precise delimitation of powers between the European Union
and the Member States, reflecting the principle of subsidiarity;
" the status of the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the European Union proclaimed in Nice, in accordance
with the conclusions of the European Council in Cologne;
" a simplification of the Treaties
with a view to making them clearer and better understood without
changing their meaning;
" the role of national Parliaments
in the European architecture."
46.2 The Declaration notes that a new Conference
of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States
will be convened in 2004 with a view to making changes to the
Treaties. Prior to this:
"In 2001, the Swedish
and Belgian Presidencies, in co-operation with the Commission
and involving the European Parliament, will encourage wide-ranging
discussions with all interested parties: representatives of national
Parliaments and all those reflecting public opinion, namely political,
economic and university circles, representatives of civil society,
etc. The candidate States will be associated with this process
in ways to be defined."
The Commission Communication
46.3 In this Communication, the Commission offers
its initial thoughts on the form that the debate should take,
who should be involved and what contribution it could make. It
envisages three phases:
- a phase of open reflection in 2001 to
include 'wide-ranging discussions with all interested parties'
on a national level;
- a period of structured reflection
at the European level in the following years, which will focus
on preparing a new revision of the Treaties; and
- an intergovernmental conference,
to be convened in 2004.
46.4 The initial period of open reflection
will include a public debate open to all sections of civil society.
It will be for Member States to organise their own national debates
but these should not be restricted to "exchanges between
European experts". The Commission considers that the substance
of the debate should include more than the four questions set
out in the Nice declaration. It adds that "in order to ensure
that the debate retains a minimum degree of coherence and remains
relevant, particular attention should ... be paid to the wording
of the questions and issues."
46.5 The Commission proposes that the Council,
the Commission and the European Parliament should agree on practical
arrangements for encouraging a Europe-wide debate. It says that
it could offer practical support to Member States, based on the
experience it gained from the Dialogue on Europe initiative,
which it launched in February 2000 and which was designed precisely
for the purpose of encouraging public debate on Europe. Dialogue
on Europe has an inter-institutional operating framework,
uses a specific budget line, operates in a flexible and decentralised
way, and uses new information technologies for establishing interactive
communication with the Member States. It could be refocussed,
so that the institutions are able to meet some of the operational
needs of the debate on the future of Europe.
46.6 For the structured debate, the Commission
favours a formula based on the convention which drafted the Charter
of Fundamental Rights and brought together representatives of
national governments and parliaments, the European Parliament
and the Commission.
Involvement of the applicant countries
46.7 The Commission stresses the importance of
involving the applicant countries in the debate, through use of
the internet, by encouraging the political authorities of these
countries to contribute, and as part of the Commission's information
strategy in candidate countries on enlargement.
46.8 In Annex 1 to the Communication the Commission
has drawn up guidelines for its contribution to the practical
aspects of the European debate.
The Government's view
46.9 The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain) says
in his Explanatory Memorandum of 20 June that on 7 March 2001
the Swedish and Belgian Presidencies, the European Commission
and the European Parliament launched the debate. He comments:
"The UK Government welcomes
this debate and will remain fully engaged in it. Discussions on
the structure of the debate at European level are ongoing. As
the Gothenburg Presidency conclusions note, these discussions
will continue up to the Laeken European Council where a decision
is expected to be taken.
"The Government welcomes the Commission's suggestion,
in its Communication, to contribute to the practical arrangements
of the Future of Europe debate at the European level. The Government
is content for the Commission to refocus its Dialogue on Europe
initiative so that the institutions are able to meet certain operational
needs of the debate such as a debate website and a central co-ordinating
team, provided that spending is kept within agreed budget lines".
46.10 This rambling document does little to
advance matters and we note that the Minister has underlined the
Government's support for the Commission to contribute to the practical
46.11 We question what sort of mechanism of
control the Commission has in mind when it points to the need
for particular attention to be paid to the wording of the questions
and the issues which should be debated, but prefer to assume that
it is referring to the contribution it says that it may make,
"when the time comes", on topics which it considers
to be worth consideration.
46.12 We now clear this document.