Radical changes sought in report prepared for IGC


"EUROPE does not have the means to match its ambitions", the Reflection Group set up to prepare for this year's Inter Governmental Conference (IGC) on the reform of the EU concluded. "On these grounds alone the Commission believes a major institutional overhaul is justified", the Commission in the introduction to its radical submission to the IGC.

That reality is reinforced by the danger of a dilution of the Union through enlargement, the Commission warns, insisting that "if enlargement has to happen it must be on the basis of preserving the acquis (the cumulative gains) of 40 years of European construction."

And its draft report, prepared by the Commissioner responsible for the IGC, Mr Marcelino Oreja, and the President, Mr Jacques Santer, and which has been seen by The Irish Times, lives up to its promised.

Apart from the full incorporation of the WEU, the Schengen Treaty, and the Maastricht Social Protocol into the Union treaty, the Commission proposes a substantial extension of the pooling of sovereignty through much more qualified majority voting and significant extensions of the legal competences of the Union.

It also urges major simplifications of both legislation and decision making.

And, due to the pressure of the Irish Commissioner, Mr Padraig Flynn, and the Swedes, the proposed treaty changes would also significantly reinforce the role of the Union in the fight against unemployment.

The Commission sets out three broad objectives - to bring the Union closer to the citizen, to give it the capacity to act on the world stage, and to provide it with the institutional changes necessary to function effectively after enlargement.

. The Union and the citizen:

The Union must be based on fundamental rights and solidarity, the report argues. It presses for accession of the Union as a whole to the European Convention on Human Rights, and the incorporation of new anti discrimination provisions in the treaty.

"The social dimension must have an important place in the conference," the Commission will say, insisting that a common basic social standard for the Union requires the integration of the Social Protocol into the treaty.

A new treaty clause on employment should express four aspirations - to create the conditions for a common employment strategy, to stimulate co operation between the social partners, to take employment into account in all EU policies, and to intensify the role of the Commission in exchanging information and best practice.

The report urges the substantial extension of qualified majority voting into the traditionally intergovernmental, veto voting areas of justice and home affairs, particularly in relation to free movement tissues, immigration and asylum. "The reality of unanimity voting is, that it paralyses the Council or produces a decision based on the lowest common denominator."

It acknowledges the need to keep police and justice co operation on an inter governmental basis.

With the aspiration to "do less but better" in Brussels, the Commission will urge the incorporation of the principle of subsidiarity into the treaty and that legislative procedures be reduced from 23 to three, both simplifying the process and significantly enhancing the power of Parliament.

. The Union on the world stage:

The report criticises the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as "underdeveloped". "The Union must be capable of speaking with one voice," it says, to put an end to institutional incoherence.

"To this end, a Presidency Commission tandem needs to be put in place, in order to make sure that the two responsible institutions ... co operate effectively."

It urges the creation of an analysis unit and the need to reinforce the Council and Presidency's capacities to act.

Most controversially, the Commission advocates that "as a rule" decision making in this extremely sensitive area should be by qualified majority, or possibly by a reinforced "superqualified" majority system, in order to end the inhibiting use of the veto.

"The Commission believes that a real common foreign and security policy must lead to a common defence", the report says, and it urges the incorporation of "at least" a peacekeeping role in the treaty.

A new framework for defence and security requires a re examination of the role of the Western European Union with a view to its eventual integration into the Union, the Commission says.

. The institutions:

The report backs a limit on the size of the parliament after enlargement at 700, elected by a common method. It opposes attempts to end the six monthly rotation of the presidency.

The Commission proposes significant changes in the way it is to be appointed. Its president, it says, should be nominated by the Council of Ministers and approved by Parliament. But, unlike current practice, he/she should have considerable discretion in appointing the other members and there should be a treaty commitment on their part to "collegiality".