Second supplementary memorandum from Sir
THE SECOND CHAMBERa
Within a year, three German political heavyweights
have outlined schemes for institutional reform in the European
Union. Their proposals do not appear to have been closely orchestrated
and none of them are presented as the official policy of the Federal
Government. But considering their origins, they cannot be far
The first in the field was the German Foreign
Minister, Joschka Fischer, at the Humboldt Institute in Berlin
in May 2000. He explained that he was speaking in a private capacity.
At the time, there was debate about the narrowly defined matters
before the Intergovernmental Conference. Mr Fischer seemed to
want to move to a higher plane.
He spoke up for the preservation of national
identities. He also called for a Second Chamber representative
of the States of the Union and directly elected. The constitutional
structures remained imprecise, but Mr Fischer was generally interpreted
as going further down the road towards a federal state than his
colleagues and predecessors had ventured.
It is worth interjecting that German statesmen
and voters have a clearer understanding of the relationships between
different levels of government than most of their fellow Europeans.
In the reconstruction of Western Germany after the war, the USA,
the UK and enthusiastically France set out to strengthen the standing
of the Laender at the expense of the central organs. Although
the centre has perhaps inevitably reasserted itself, the model
of powersharing between local authority (Gemeinde and Kreis),
the Land and the Federal Government is well understood. There
is no conceptual difficulty in incorporating another tier, in
the form of European governance.
In the light of later interventions, Mr Fischer's
personal reflections are now to be understood as the opening stage
of an inner German debate, which has now moved on.
In April 2001 the German Federal President,
Mr Johannes Rau, in a speech before the European Parliament, like
Mr Fischer, insisted on the preservation of the nation states,
which he proposed should come together in a Federation. His presentation
sounded like an attempt to find a middle way within the verdict
of the Federal Constitutional Court in the case which challenged
the legality of the Maastricht Treaty. There was then profound
reflection about the nature of a Bundesstaat (usually translated
as Federal State) and a Staatenverband (an Association of States).
Like Mr Fischer, Mr Rau advocated a Second Chamber, but in his
version it was the Council (of Ministers) transformed into a Chamber
of the States, alongside a Chamber of the People, the rebranded
European Parliament. This was straightforward enough, but also
over-facile. The Council is not a monolith. It meets in a dozen
or more different formations according to the subject matter.
Perhaps Mr Rau's proposal was linked to another much canvassed
but unexpressed idea, which envisages the replacement of the present
Council(s) by a single forum of Ministers for Europe, who would
commute between their capitals and Brussels/Strasbourg, gathering
together the disparate functions of the specialist Councils (and
in some blueprints replacing Coreper) and interacting with the
Mr Rau's proposal is to be seen as a stage towards
the more fully worked out, but still "big picture" plan
put forward by the Federal Chancellor, Mr Schroeder.
The Chancellor, in his capacity as Party Leader,
put forward in April 2001 a draft Policy Statement ("Leitantrag")
for debate at the SPD Party Conference in Nuremberg in November.
The document was also unveiled in time for a May meeting of Socialist
Party Leaders Party from all the Member States of the Union. It
is not presented as Federal government policy. One German commentator
described it as a pot pourri of ideas. It ranges over a wide field
of policies, including a small section on the reform of the EU.
While some parts of the text are integrationist, other parts insist
that the powers of the Union derive from the Member States, that
there need to be precautions against creeping Union competence
and that some existing EU policies should be repatriated (notably
agricultural policy and structural actionsthe two big spenders
in the Community budget). On the institutions:
the European Commission should become
a "strong executive";
the European Parliament (while apparently
retaining all its powers) should become the Budget authorityinstead
of sharing the responsibility with the Council;
the Council should become a Chamber
of the States (as in the Rau formula).
German commentators have pointed out that the
paper is far from uni-directional. While upholding and extending
subsidiarity (vocally demanded by the German Laender) it also
calls for a European Criminal Office, a European Prosecution Service
and a European Border Police force. Contrary to Press comment,
it does not talk anywhere about a European government.
The prevailing hypothesis is that Mr Schroeder
is seeking to put Germany in the vanguard ahead of the Document
on Governance which the Commission is due to submit in July; and
in the period preceding the preparations for the Laeken Declaration
which the Belgian Presidency of the second half of 2001 intends
to produce; and in the debates which will precede the institutional
review (in a form yet to be decided) of 2004. Unlike Mr Rau, Mr
Schroeder has not used any of the "f-words". But the
bicameral structure is one proper to a federation. Although doubtless
inspired by the machinery of German Government, the Chamber of
the States would not look like the Bundesrat.
It remains to be seen in what ways the Commission
is to become a strong(er) executive and what non-budgetary functions
the Chamber of the State is to discharge. Candidates include legislative
co-decision and a subsidiarity scrutiny which would be strengthened
by "Abgrenzung", the statutorily defined division between
the powers of the Union and those of the Member States.