IGC on the Reform Treaty:
Interview with MEPs

, by Arielle Rouby

IGC on the Reform Treaty: Interview with MEPs

The French “Non” and Dutch “Nee” to the Constitutional Treaty in 2005 led the European Union into a period of reflection on future institutional reform. This reflection period ended with the agreement found on the 21–22 June 2007 at the European Council, namely on the convening of an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in order to draw up a “Reform Treaty” amending the existing treaties.

After the EP approved the IGC mandate on 11 July, the IGC was opened on 23 July 2007. Since then, legal experts have been working on the basis of the mandate on the draft of the “Treaty amending the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community”. A political agreement on a new Treaty is thus expected at the Lisbon European Council on the 18–19 October 2007.

Thus, this IGC is very different in its content and form to all previous ones. Firstly the IGC mandate is a very detailed and imperative one, its contents result from the work done by the Convention and the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty by 18 counties and the double no. Secondly, the mandate is so detailed, that this IGC is merely a negotiation between legal experts. Though the political room for maneuver for the EP representatives is very small, they are fighting for the EU-citizen’s rights and interests. You can find out more about the IGC and its ongoing negotiations by reading the interview with the two EP representatives – Enrique BARON CRESPO and Elmar BROK and a quote that Andrew DUFF gave us with regard to this topic.

Interview with Enrique BARÓN CRESPO, European Socialist Party (PES)

1. What role do you have as a representative of the EU-citizens at the IGC?

As representative of the EU citizens I have the important task of representing and reflecting European citizen’s views and concerns. My work, in view of the preparation of the Summit planned on 18-19 October, is to defend the adoption of the Reform Treaty.

2. What is the current stage of negotiations?

The work is made essentially by legal experts. At the moment, only one political meeting was scheduled, in Portugal, Viana Do Castelo. It was the so called Gymnich meeting, (informal meeting at Ministerial level) where the Parliament was invited and where we could intervene. We have in principle one more option before the Summit in October.

3. Which are your political priorities for this IGC?

The Parliament has several concerns regarding the ongoing negotiations. As regards the priorities and red lines for the Parliament I could categorise them in the following way: the definition of citizenship and its placement in the body of the new Treaty; the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights; the opt -out from the Charter; JHA and Schengen and practical issues linked to the CFSP.

4. Is an agreement on the new Treaty likely to happen in Lisbon?

It is indeed crucial to ensure the adoption of the Reform Treaty in order to increase democratic legitimacy, the effectiveness of the decision making- process and to reinforce the coherence of external action of the Union. Facing important global challenges, the Union could not afford to remain paralysed. I am doing my best in order to achieve this, but for the moment being and as I said before the work of legal experts is blocked.

5. What mean of ratification would you favour to ensure the successful ratification of the new Treaty?

The ratification process should be very coordinated between all Member States. Those countries which did not state their position at the beginning should be the first to ratify the new text in order to proof their good will and show their solidarity.

Interview with ELMAR BROK, European People’s Party (EPP)

1. What role do you have as a representative of the EU-citizens at the IGC?

As representative of the European Parliament, I have to ensure that the benefits of the EU Reform Treaty for EU citizens are not being watered down because of particular interests of a minority of Member States. The Reform Treaty strengthens the position of the citizens by strengthening democracy, efficiency and the EU’s ability to act.

2. What is the current stage of negotiations?

The negotiations are still at the level of legal experts, who are drafting a legal treaty text based on the mandate given at the EU-summit in June. These negotiations will be over soon, though. At the General Affairs Council and at the following EU-summit in Lisbon in October political agreement will hopefully be reached.

3. Which are your political priorities for this IGC?

The full legal effectiveness of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the protection of citizen’s rights, and the power of the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament are some examples where the European Parliament is not willing to make compromises. The community method must be strengthened against inter-governmentalism and also the effectiveness of the decision-making of the institutions. They mark our “red-lines” which must not be crossed.

4. Is an agreement on the new Treaty likely to happen in Lisbon?

Yes, there is commitment from all Member States to have a treaty text by the end of the year. This means that political agreement has to be reached at the EU-summit in Lisbon in October, in order to have the Treaty translated and signed by December.

5. What means of ratification would you favour to ensure the successful ratification of the new Treaty?

Whatever it takes to ensure a factual and honest debate on the new Treaty. If we stick to the facts, there is no possible alternative to the Reform Treaty to prepare Europe for the future. The current treaty does not provide for the tools and mechanisms needed to deal with challenges like globalisation, the fight against terrorism and international crime or climate change and for Europe to claim its role in the world.

“Barring accidents, there will be a political agreement. What matters for me, and for the Parliament, is the quality of that agreement, as well as its aftertaste. There is still much to be done to reassure the IGC that the UK has not become a drop-out country.”

Andrew Duff, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)

The interviews with the respected Members of the European Parliament were conducted by our Brussels correspondent Arielle Rouby on 26 September 2007.

Images:

- Books and EU flag, source: Google Images
- photos of the MEPs are taken from Your MEPs section of the European Parliament

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