Examination of Witness (Questions 160
TUESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2002
160. Do you support Mr Lamassoure's proposal
for a clearer definition of subsidiarity and enforcement of the
principle by a constitutional court?
(Mr Hänsch) I am reluctant, I am not opposed
to a clearer definition of subsidiarity, but in my opinion subsidiarity
is not a juridical item, it is a political one. In the end you
cannot tell people or tell the governments who decided on a European
level that this was not possible because of the principle of subsidiarity.
No, subsidiarity has to be respected by politicians, that is government,
the Commission and Parliament itself. I do not think we can do
it or can make out of it a juridical question, it is a political
one and an important one.
161. Voters are becoming more and more disenchanted
with politics and politicians, that goes for national parliaments,
and more so probably for the European Parliament. How do you feel
we could make the Parliament itself more relevant to the voter?
(Mr Hänsch) Clearly by giving the European Parliament
the full right of co-decision on all legislative acts of the Union.
I underline legislative acts of the Union. The majority in the
European Parliament, the qualified majority in the Council, all
legislative acts at European Union level have to pass the Parliament
in co-decision and this makes it relevant for people, more relevant
than today. The other point is the election of the President of
the Commission, by the Parliament which is in a way a contribution
to personalise the institution of the Union. One of most relevant
criticisms of the Union is that the Union is presenting itself
with institutions while nobody really can understand what an institution
is. Politics have to be represented by persons. There is a political
lack in the Union if you come to a more personalisation of European
politics we will interest more people.
162. Can I also say, Klaus, it is nice to see
you again. You speak with such clarity and forcefulness just as
you did when you were an excellent President of the European Parliament.
My question is about the role of the regions. It has been suggested
that those regional authorities with legislative powers should
have special "Partners of the Union" status. I would
like your views on that. Also, how do you think that regions may
have views articulated in the Convention when they are not represented.
The Committee of the Regions has no representation as such in
the Convention? How is their voice going to be heard?
(Mr Hänsch) The Committee of the Regions is represented
by observers in the Convention. I think the regions have no reason
to complain on that, that is the first point. The second point
is, as a German I like giving the regions a more important role
in the framework of European decision-making processes but the
internal structures of our member states are different due to
their history, to their ethnic situation, and so on. The European
Union should refrain from organising those things or making proposals.
I think it is a decision of member states how they are structured
and it should remain a decision of member states. There are centralised
member states France, Greece or Portugal. There are others who
have a certain federal structure such as Belgium, Germany or Austria,
and so on, so when you are talking about regions we are not talking
about the same. When you look to the United Kingdom to Austria
or Portugal or Sweden and so on, it is always different, it will
remain different and this makes it difficult. I think presentation
in the Committee of Regions is a good instrument but I do not
think that much more can be done.
163. I wonder if you could say a little bit
more about how you see the relationship between the European Parliament
and national parliaments? It seems to me that the European Parliament
by itself cannot restore the link between the European citizen
and the European decision-makers but the role of national parliaments,
in particular committees such as ours, is very important in terms
of reinforcing that connection between the citizens and the European
decision-making processes. With the Napolitano Report there is
a suggestion of creating constituent power so we talk not just
about the Commission, the Council and European Parliament but
the four elements, the European Parliament, the Commission, the
European Council and national parliaments as well. I wonder what
you can say to us about the Napolitano Report and your impression
of that, also the prospects of bringing national parliaments into
play in the future through the Convention?
(Mr Hänsch) Let me put it a little different
from the Napolitano Report. The first thing is no there is competition
between the European Parliament and the national parliaments on
influence in the Union or on the relevance to the people, and
so on. I think this is wrong structurally and it is wrong by intentionally
because both have a role to play in European policy. I see a clear
division of roles between the European Parliament and the national
parliaments. It is quite clear that the European Parliament has
a role to scrutinise the Commission and to have its say in co-decision
on the decision of European regulations and directives, that is
to say the day-to-day legislation in the Union. That is the task
of the European Parliament. The national parliamentarians have
to control the European policy of their own government. They are
elected to decide on the fundamental decisions of the European
Union. All things which have to be ratified by national parliaments
such as the financing of the Union, all of the things which form
the general orientation of the Union, that is the task of the
member states' parliaments. It is quite clear there is a place
for both. What we need in addition to that is better information
on what is going on in the European Parliament and what is going
on in the national parliaments and maybe COSAC can play a more
important role in that. You did not ask this, but what I am opposed
to is creating a new institution on a European level by a sort
of parliament of delegates of national parliaments, I think that
would be a mistake, it would not contribute to more transparency
in the Union.
164. Are you against a second chamber?
(Mr Hänsch) Yes.
165. So am I.
(Mr Hänsch) Excuse me, if I might add, a lot
of people think the German Bundesrat is a second chamber, it is
not formally a second chamber because there are no senators or
directly elected people, there are representatives of the ländér
governments and only the ländér governments. This
is formally not a second chamber. It has an important role to
play in a framework where you have different member states. So
the Council is not a second chamber and a chamber or delegation
of the national parliaments is not necessary.
166. As a member of the Praesidium do you think
then there should be votes in the Praesidium and the Convention,
and that the way people vote should be recorded so that it is
(Mr Hänsch) There is no decision in the Praesidium
till now as to how we will proceed. There is a tendency, and the
tendency is that we have avoided voting in the Praesidium in any
way and in the Convention also. How will you count the votes?
There are 16 members of the European Parliament, there are 30,
or so, of the national parliaments, there are representatives
of governments, there are two commissioners, and so on, and so
on, how will you count the votes? By components of the Convention,
by hats or what. That is the first difficulty. The second difficulty
is that we have to try to come to a consensus in the end which
does not mean unanimity but a broad support for what should be
the proposal of the Convention. If you permanently vote on this
or that question you create losers and winners and this would
be a mistake in view of the final consensus we need. I think that
the experience of the Fundamental Rights Convention gives us some
advice. They voted only once or twice and I have been told the
result was once or twice a chaos, but in the end they had a result,
in end they had a broad consensus on the Charter of Fundamental
Rights. We should not exclude votes, but we should avoid them.
167. I did not ask about the tendency of thinking
in the Praesidium. I asked what you thought.
(Mr Hänsch) I told you what I think.
168. Is that your view? I was asking for your
(Mr Hänsch) As a member in the Praesidium I try
to influence them.
169. How do you establish consensus if you do
not take a vote?
(Mr Hänsch) By listening, by proposing, and by
170. Can I press you a bit on that. Who does
that listening and proposing? Who has the responsibility? Is it
the Praesidium of the Convention or the whole Convention?
(Mr Hänsch) Responsibility for?
171. Deciding what the consensus is, responsible
for listening and deciding.
(Mr Hänsch) I think it will be the Praesidium.
If the Praesidium feels that there is no longer any relevant protest
against a proposal. In practice we all know how it works. I do
not think in all situations you will come to a decision by a vote.
You all have a certain ability to bring opposite views which have
been expressed in the end together in a clear proposal. It depends
a little bit on the ability of the President and of the Praesidium
to conclude correctly what have been the main ideas and main tendencies
in the Convention.
172. On this point I totally agree with what
Klaus is saying in terms of getting a consensus. Is it not also
the case you want to come up with options for solutions in the
future rather than just come to one consensus?
(Mr Hänsch) Maybe in the future we will come
to a situation where we vote on certain options.
173. You give options as a result of a meeting?
(Mr Hänsch) I am opposed to a Convention finishing
its work by presenting alternative options to the public or to
the inter-governmental conference, because then you will have
a situation where the public does not know what the Convention
really wants to do and the governments will do what they want.
This is not the task of the Convention. We have to propose a unique,
clear and coherent draft for the coming Inter-Governmental Conference
and then they may decide, of course. Coming with options where
the public is discussing what is the most, should I say, anti-European
option, or about what is the most European option what is necessary
is to have a proposal which brings things together, not dividing
174. What you are giving to the government and
to the public is not a debate, you are giving one solution on
a take it or leave it basis?
(Mr Hänsch) Pardon?
175. If you come up with one solution and you
give it to the government and the people of Europe and say, "This
is our solution on the future of Europe", there will not
be a debate amongst the people and there will not be a debate
amongst the government.
(Mr Hänsch) Even after the consensus of the Charter
of Fundamental Rights there was a debate. That is the first point.
The second point is, of course, if you come to a consensus, a
broad consensus then the representatives of government are, to
a certain extent, in it because otherwise we cannot have a consensus.
I agree, you are limiting the influence of the public debate afterwards.
But if we do not act like this why was it necessary to have a
176. Are you saying everyone is represented
(Mr Hänsch) You could leave this to the government,
you will have a Finnish, a German, a British or whatever proposal
and these are all options and the Convention is to find a way
and a proposal which meets most of the ideas of reform of the
Union which are given to the public. We will not invent a new
thing, it will not be a new Union, but, I hope, a better Union.
177. What proposals do you hope the Praesidium
or the Convention will adopt which will take what has been discussed
in the Convention in Brussels to the public regularly?
(Mr Hänsch) We will have to have a debate on
how to involve the public in the work of the Convention in the
second meeting of the Convention and this will be an important
item of the second meeting. A general idea of mine and some other
members of the Praesidium is to propose that we have public hearings
and debates with governmental organisation of all orders in Brussels,
not exclusively in Brussels, that is necessary but not sufficient.
We need, I think, also public debates, hearings, in the capitals
of the member states with national organisations where we should
organise not only by the Convention but also by national parliaments
because I am sure you have an impact on public opinion. We need
to have it in all our member states', capitals, wherever you want
to meet, not all of the whole Convention, but two or three people
of the Praesidium and some people of the Convention will come
to London or Stockholm or wherever and have an intense debate
or more than one intense debate on the issues of the Convention.
178. Can I ask a quick question, looking at
full list of members of the Convention I will be very surprisedI
know a lot of individuals concernedif there are more than
three people in the entire Convention who have any serious doubts
about the whole concept of a European government and what the
future of the Europe debate is about. How can you have a proper
debate when there are only Jans-Peter Bonde, Heathcoat-Amory and
another in this Committee? There is a strong tendency against
the sort of views I hold, but that is not the point, I want to
know how you can have that?
(Mr Hänsch) I have not to scrutinise national
parliaments, they decide on their representatives in the Convention.
179. The Convention takes on a life of its own,
it presumes to be able to deal with procedures, as yet undisclosed.
We had the Assizes of 10 years agoyou may have been on
those yourselfit was complete farce.
(Mr Hänsch) It is a Convention to reform the
Union, to make out of it a better Union, not to destroy it. I
think national parliaments who had the decision on whom they sent
to the Convention made their decision in their heads. And the
European Parliament was the Parliament who dared to send it two
of its anti-European to the convention which the larger pro-European
groups, the PPE and the Socialists gave away one of their seats.
It was our decision to do that.
180. The Convention itself, I believe, was something
proposed by the European Parliament, from within the European
Parliament. It is going to have to experiment in some ways if
it is to be a successful experiment and I think, in a sense, what
is very promising is that it brings those four institutions together,
the national parliaments, the European Parliaments, the Council
and the Commission and, perhaps, not in a chamber but into a kind
of constituent assembly. If that experiment is successful would
you like to see it continued, it would almost be a kind of new
(Mr Hänsch) If the procedure and the Convention
is successful I think it will be an example for further treaty
changes, a good example. There is already the role of national
parliaments in the Convention: so that is what we and what you
want to have, a broader role of Parliamentarians in European affairs,
a contribution to that. I think if it is a success we will continue
Chairman: Thank you very much. We have overrun
the time. I am sorry to have kept you longer, it is because we
found the exchange most interesting. It is always a good sign
if we run over. We really appreciate you coming along and I am
sure we will find your opinions and information and responses
to our questions helpful when we prepare our report. Thank you.