Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 18 JUNE 2002
STUART MP AND
60. Do you have any optimism that they will
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I do not want to sound pessimistic,
because we are not half-way through, but the mood of the Convention
is rather that these are internal matters to be discussed and
we are concerned about harmonization and creating a more effective,
more efficient Europe, and, to be fair, they are aware of the
democratic deficit. But these huge global issuesthe information
revolution, the World Trade Organisation's view, and development
issues about dumping of agricultural exports on the third world,
which do create havoc through the third worldare not discussed.
Perhaps they are thought not to be appropriate. But I think that
they are, because we are not just designing a European Union for
our own continent, we are also designing an organisation which
is supposed to be playing a part in world affairs.
61. If I accuse the Convention of being introverted
and theological rather than religious and visionary, would I be
right be right or wrong?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I wish I had described it as
pithily as that.
62. And the view from the other side, Ms Stuart?
(Ms Stuart) I hope that after the next session of
the Convention, which is the engagement of civic society and NGOs,
a two-day session totally devoted to that, we both will be able
to come back with a more positive view on that.
Sir John Stanley
63. You have talked about democratic deficit
within the EU. There are two questions I would like to ask you
both. First of all, is there any mood of willingness within the
Convention to break the existing monopoly belonging to the European
Commission over the initiation of legislation and to give, for
example, the Council of Ministers, by a majority perhaps, a right
to be able to initiate legislation alongside the European Commission?
Secondly, is there any mood also to create some direct accountability
of the Commission to national parliaments? We, in this Committee,
have had the utmost difficulty, for example, in getting commissioners
and representatives of the Commission come to give evidence to
this Foreign Affairs Committee in our own parliament. So perhaps
I may ask you that one as well: Is there any mood to achieve some
direct accountability of members of the Commission for national
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I accused the Commission of being
an embodiment of a technocratic Europe in a plenary debate and
was immediately attacked by Monsieur Barnier, the French Commissioner,
who gave me what I regarded as a very technocratic response to
my allegations. I think we are not, in the Convention, really
asking the basic question about what is the Commission for. There
are all sorts of ideas about perhaps electing a head of Europewhether
he is President of the Commission or head of the Councilbut
the prior question is: Is the Commission a kind of embryonic government
of Europe or is it a secretariat? I believe it should be a secretariat,
attached either to the Council or maybe to national parliaments,
which should have greater initiative in legislation. It is quite
interesting that the Commission is against all monopolies except
the monopoly which they have themselves, which is to initiate
legislation. So I do think that that needs breaking or at least
diluting. But, so far, that radicalism has not been very prominent
in the debate, if I may put it like that.
64. And, my second question: Is there any mood
to achieve any direct accountability of commissioners or senior
officials to national parliaments?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) This is rather my point. I think
if they were re-classified as a secretariat carrying out an executive
role under the direct influence and guidance of other bodiesI
know that is the theory of the Council but it is certainly not
that in practicethen I think that problem would solve itself
because they would not need to be separately elected. Indeed,
I think any proposal to elect the President of the Commission,
even if that is done by the European Parliament, would enhance
its role and would create the impression that that is the government
of Europe and it would not solve the democratic problem. So I
want to recapture the Commission and make it accountable by placing
it alongsideand, as I said, I have not decided exactly
how we can do thisnational parliaments, who ought to create
horizontal links between themselves. Perhaps we ought to create,
as I have called it, an inter-parliamentary pillar of the Union,
to put national parliament in the driving seat to solve international
problems but by coordination. And then, having decided what we
need to do, the Commission could carry out a secretariat and coordinating
role but under the very specific direction of the democratic body
which I think is primarily located in Member States.
(Ms Stuart) I very much hope that the working group
on national parliaments will come back with their recommendation
that there should be that link with the Commission, and direct,
so that there is not this hierarchy but it closes itself. In terms
of the Council of Ministers, there is a big debate going on whether
we should get rid of quite a number of the sectorial councils
and separate out when the Council of Ministers acts as a legislative
body and then look closely at how the Commission rights of initiative
should work out. In answer to your question: Is this being discussed?
Yes. Where there is a real danger is that people do not think
through the consequences of what they are asking for at the minute,
because the minute you say, "We want the Commission to be
democratically accountable and more elected," then I think
David's point is an extremely valid one if one wishes to create
a government of Europe in waiting which then will prevail. Or
do we want the Commission to be the guardians of the treatywhich
I think is what they should beand therefore the notion
of having an elected President of the Commission would be as strange
as saying, because in Britain we need a new head of the civil
service, "Go and elect him." We would say, "Of
course we do not elect them, we appoint them." That is being
teased out at the moment, that people think through the coherent
consequences of single ideas and what it really means when you
add them up.
65. And breaking the monopoly of the Commission's
right to implement legislation?
(Ms Stuart) There has been less talk about that explicitly
but it is rumbling as one of the issues which have to be looked
Sir Patrick Cormack
66. Do you think it would help if the President
were called the Secretary General or General Secretary?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I think that is a very good idea.
I really do. I think that names are important. I think that calling
someone Secretary General would emphasise that his role is to
implement and execute decisions made by others, rather than by
calling him President of the Commission, which elevates him to
the status of a European government leader.
(Ms Stuart) I think we have to be aware that these
words can mean different things in different languages. I remember
the endless debates about whether Praesidium should be called
the Praesidium or the Bureau.
67. Or the Politburo.
(Ms Stuart) Or, as the Chairman likes to refer to
it, the Politburo. And then, once it was the Praesidium, how it
should be spelt, and there were three alternative versions.
Sir Patrick Cormack
68. We are talking in English.
(Ms Stuart) In English, yes, it would not be a bad
Chairman: The only problem is that with a secretary
general you have to decide whether he or she is a secretary or
a general, and that poses its own problems. May I thank you both
on behalf of the Committee most warmly. As colleagues, you have
set the platform for further debate. I anticipate that the further
debates will probably now move to the new Standing Committee on
the Convention, of which, as Sir Patrick has said, we are all
members. Thank you both very much indeed.