Thursday, 7 June 2007

Realistic treaty assessment

With a slimmed-down treaty [as outlined above], the EU would become somewhat more efficient and democratic, but it is questionable whether it would really prepare the Union for the future, Sebastian Kurpas and Stefano Micossi of the Centre for European Policy Studies concluded (CEPS Policy brief No. 130, May 2007: Will the European Council end the institutional deadlock in the EU? The Narrow Trail to an Agreement).

I am going to report how the member states have positioned themselves, according to the Policy brief.

The authors noted that any solution will have to respect a fundamental constraint: whatever new treaty emerges from the negotiations, the French, Dutch and British governments demand it to be of such nature that it will not require them to hold a new referendum.

In its opposition to meaningful institutional change, the United Kingdom will be able to enlist the support of Poland and the Czech Republic, certainly as regards opposition to constitutional symbols in the new treaty. However, Poland’s main interest is to prevent the double majority voting system in the Council as it is outlined in the Constitutional Treaty, to preserve at least some of the disproportionate weight relative to its population that it currently enjoys under the rules agreed during the Nice inter-governmental conference, Kurpas and Micossi remarked.

On the other hand, any deal must pay due recognition to the fact that 18 member states have ratified the Constitutional Treaty. The bulk of provisions in Part I must be saved, as any other solution would inevitably unravel the delicate balancing of the interests of the member states that made agreement possible in the last inter-governmental conference, Kurpas and Micossi wrote.

In a crisis scenario, the majority of the members that want a stronger union may eventually decide to proceed without permission of those that do not want to proceed. Anyway, the enlarged European Union will increasingly depend on mechanisms for flexible integration. These mechanisms should be used as a constructive tool to overcome tensions between countries that want to go ahead faster and those that prefer not to participate, said the authors.

Even if a compromise far beyond a lowest common denominator is found, important issues will remain on the table: particularly the conditions for future treaty reforms, which are of central importance in order to avoid institutional inflexibility, and the lack of transparency in a Union of 27 member states, Kurpas and Micossi reminded.

The Policy brief dealt with more detailed questions under discussion, but those interested enough are best served by reading the brief in its entirety.

Somewhat more efficient and democratic, but unfit for the future; that is a realistic assessment of the outcome of possible EU treaty reform. Our best hope?

Ralf Grahn