Select Committee on European Union Forty-First Report



By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.



The draft Constitutional Treaty for the European Union is a significant document, meriting serious scrutiny and wide public debate. With ten new countries set to join the EU next year, it is necessary to agree a new Treaty now, as it is generally agreed that the present institutional structure would not function satisfactorily in a Union of 25.

Whether or not the draft Treaty is a "constitution" is of less importance than what it says and how it will affect all our lives.

The draft Treaty was prepared by the Convention on the Future of Europe, which was composed of representatives of national parliaments and governments, including from the applicant countries, and of the European Parliament and the Commission. The Convention met in public. The draft is now being considered by Ministers meeting in the Intergovernmental Conference, which does not meet in public.

The draft Treaty:

    Reforms the institutions of the EU

    Incorporates a Charter of Fundamental Rights

    Changes the way the EU works, including granting the Union some new powers ("competences")

    Enhances the role of national parliaments.

But the draft Treaty is also largely composed of the text of current Treaties - i.e. much of what it provides for is not new.

With an eye to whether the draft Treaty is good for Britain, and for the European Union, this report examines the draft Treaty against four key themes:

    Does it confirm the EU as a union of Member States, rather than a state in its own right?

    Does it mean significant improvements in democracy, accountability and transparency?

    Will it make any difference to citizens, and bring the EU's institutions closer to them?

    Will it make the EU more efficient?

The report concludes that the answer to the first question is yes. But, as a consequence, provisions for direct democratic legitimacy are harder to achieve. For example, it is precisely because the EU is not a state that the Treaty does not provide some of the direct mechanisms (such as the power to remove a government) that would exist in a state.

Overall, the report concludes that the draft Treaty would make some contributions to democracy, accountability and efficiency in the EU. For example, the Treaty clearly sets out what the EU is. But it is far less successful in securing transparency or bringing the EU closer to citizens.

The Government could do much more to explain the draft Treaty, particularly to specialised audiences, but should also continue to do more to provide information to the public.

The report also concludes that the Intergovernmental Conference should not rush to agree the Treaty - they need to get it right. The report also makes recommendations for changes to the Treaty text in a number of areas, including with regard to the proposed European Foreign Minister.

A final key theme of the report is the need for national parliaments to do more, both collectively and individually, to hold the Governments, who take so many of the EU's decisions, to full account.

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