Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Sixth Report




COM(02) 247

Commission Communication: A Project for the European Union.

Legal base:


Document originated:

22 May 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

28 May 2002


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 12 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

No date set

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared, but relevant to any debate on the Convention on the Future of Europe



    1. The Commission has published this communication outlining its "Project for the European Union" as a contribution to the wide-ranging debate and discussion at the Convention on the Future of Europe.
    2. The document

    3. The Communication presents the Commission's views on the further development and extension of the EU's principal areas of competence, the reform of the Community's institutions and on the constitutional framework required for the future. The Communication is divided into two sections. The first identifies three core tasks facing the EU: consolidating economic and social development; building a common area of freedom, security and justice; and developing the EU's role as a world power. The second contains the Commission's proposals for a constitutional treaty for the EU, and the modifications required to the current institutional system.
    4. Consolidating economic and social development

    5. The Commission's view is that, in order to achieve the prosperity. solidarity and quality of life demanded by its citizens, the EU's common policies must be further strengthened and developed. The Single Market "must remain at the heart of the Union's tasks", but, along with the other EU policies, should be reformed and refocused in the light of enlargement.
    6. The euro is described as a major success. The Commission emphasises, however, the need for stronger economic co-ordination as a means both of ensuring stability and of enhancing further convergence. The Commission considers it should take on overall responsibility for drafting economic policy guidelines and opinions on the stability and convergence programmes, with stronger mechanisms being put in place to enable the Commission to warn Member States directly if they deviate from the economic policy guidelines. The Council should only be able to challenge these warnings by unanimity.
    7. The Commission proposes the establishment of a formal decision-making body for the Euro zone, meeting as the Ecofin-Eurozone. In addition, the Commission argues that it should represent the Eurozone in international economic and financial organisations. The European Parliament should also be more involved in economic policy.
    8. Building an area of freedom, security and justice

    9. It is the Commission's view that a body of law should be developed to give legal effect to European citizenship. This would be a clearly-defined and enforceable set of rights and obligations, with the principles of democracy and respect for human rights, embodied in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.[46]
    10. The Commission highlights four key areas for collective EU action:

    • joint control and surveillance of external borders, leading to a common European body of border guards;

    • common policies on immigration and asylum;

    • closer judicial and police co-operation against organised crime and terrorism;

    • civil and criminal judicial co-operation within a single institutional and legal framework, including provision for a European prosecutor and criminal proceedings for cross-border fraud.

    1. The Commission paper calls for a more effective and better co-ordinated policy on Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). This could encompass improvements in the range of instruments and decision-making arrangements. The paper also advocates that the Commission should have the sole right of initiative and that JHA matters should be decided by qualified majority voting (QMV) and co-decision. Open co-ordination may be more appropriate than EU legislation and mutual recognition should apply for civil and criminal matters. But harmonisation of national legislation will be necessary in some areas, i.e. the single market. The new Treaty would define the areas where the Community method would prevail.
    2. The EU's role as a world power

    3. To complement its economic strength, the Commission considers that the EU must have a more effective and coherent foreign policy. This would require more resources and a stronger network of external delegations.
    4. The Communication falls short of recommending wholesale "communitisation" of foreign policy but it considers the "intergovernmental" approach to be flawed in its perpetuation of fragmented decision-making and action. The "centre of gravity" for foreign policy should reside in the Commission, with this institution having the sole right of initiative and ensuring coherent action and consistent policy.
    5. The roles of the High Representative (Solana) and Commissioner for External Relations (Patten) should be merged, and fall under the competence of the Commission. The incumbent would be chosen and agreed by the Commission and the Council.
    6. The Commission recommends introducing QMV for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, but without prejudice to procedures which might apply to security and defence.
    7. A constitutional treaty

    8. The Commission recommends simplifying and merging the Treaties, along with collapsing the pillar structure. This would give the EU a single legal personality and a constitutional treaty incorporating the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Decision-making procedures would continue to vary according to the type of action concerned. The derogations and opt-outs enjoyed by some Member States would need to be re-appraised with a view to ending them. Such reforms would provide a more effective system with greater clarity, accountability and proximity.
    9. The Communication rejects a catalogue or classification of competences as too inflexible to allow for action in a rapidly changing global context. A rationalisation of the types of action — uniform application, mutual recognition, harmonisation or co-ordination — is seen as essential. But flexibility should be retained.
    10. The principles of subsidiarity and proportionality should be respected and the subsidiarity role of the Court of Justice reviewed and broadened. The paper also considers establishing an external control to decide on subsidiarity questions at the end of the legislative process, but before legislation comes into force.
    11. The Commission recommends that European legislation should focus on general objectives, leaving detailed implementation to Member States. But co-decision must be the rule, and the EP must have a greater legislative and budgetary role.
    12. The Government's view

    13. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 12 June 2002 the Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) comments as follows on the Commission's paper:
    14. "There are some good points in the Commission paper. Some mirror our position (for example on the need to introduce QMV for asylum policy). We also welcome the Commission's emphasis on subsidiarity and the need for the EU to focus on delivery.

      "But there are many other ideas which we do not believe are sensible, and which are a long way from where the centre of gravity in the Union is now.

      "The Convention must draw up options for reforming the EU for the future. The Commission has said itself that this paper is a think piece for the long-term.

      "Member States will take the final decisions on the EU of the future. These decisions will be taken at the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference, by unanimity."


    15. We note that the Government has expressed a general sense of caution in relation to the more far-reaching ideas contained in the paper, whilst supporting some of the Commission's more detailed and limited suggestions, and we believe such caution is justified. We also note that the Commission's paper does not, for the most part, set out to address the principal issues to be considered by the Convention.
    16. We do not consider that much purpose would be served by asking the Government any further questions, and we accordingly clear the document. However, it is relevant to any debate on the Convention on the Future of Europe.


46  The Commission does not, however, address the issue of the Union's accession to the European Convention of Human Rights. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 25 July 2002