Monday 6 November 2017

Future of Europe: European Parliament’s vision

It is possible to find overviews in Reader’s Digest style of the most notable Future of Europe initiatives.
The annotated version of president Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union 2017 address, with the sub-heading Proposals for the future of Europe that can be implemented on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, demonstrates how the flexibilities of the EU treaties can be used to improve the effectiveness of European Union action, without embarking on a formal process of treaty reform.

European Parliament and Juncker proposals

Already at headline level we notice a high degree of similarity with one of the EU reform resolutions from the European Parliament:

European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0049 of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty (2014/2249(INI)) [rapporteurs Elmar Brok and Mercedes Bresso]

The European Parliament Think Tank did a bit more, by comparing Juncker’s SOTEU proposals with the resolution by the EP plenary. For our purposes it is enough to recall the general drift of the document The European Council and the 2017 State of the Union proposals, which describes Juncker’s vision for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe:

His vision consists of five proposals which would require a decision by the European Council, as well as one suggestion which would directly impact on the composition and working methods of this EU institution. The five proposals are: 1) using the general passerelle clause to shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council on remaining internal market issues and aspects of taxation policy; 2) moving to QMV in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); 3) setting up a European Defence Union; 4) extending the competences of the European Public Prosecutor's Office; 5) agreeing on a new composition for the European Parliament, including transnational lists. The additional suggestion is to merge the positions of President of the European Council and European Commission.

In principle, all proposed initiatives could be carried out without a Treaty change. The Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) include a series of clauses enabling the European Council to go beyond the current status quo. In three cases, the European Council would need the consent of the European Parliament before taking its decision. A comparison between President Juncker's proposals and the views of the European Parliament indicates that their opinions overlap regarding four of the ideas, while on one of them, discussions in the Parliament are still ongoing (see Table 1 below).

In each case, the Juncker proposal, the treaty basis and the European Parliament view are presented.

Since the directly elected European Parliament represents the citizens of the union, and the European Commission promotes the general interest of the EU, their views are often similar.

Juncker and Macron

The summary of this comparative assessment is telling (page 2):

Out of the proposals put forward by President Macron in his speech of 27 September, about 80% are already proposed or foreseen in the European Commission’s work programme, as outlined on 13 September in President Juncker’s Letter of Intent to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and to Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Naturally, each proposal is compared and commented on.

European Parliament vision

The EP has presented its view on the need for EU reform in the publication Future of Europe: European Parliament sets out its vision.

President Antonio Tajani states the view of the European Parliament (page 1):

If the EU is to be more responsive to citizens’ expectations and democratically accountable, it must first boost its capacity to act and make the euro zone more resilient to economic shocks, whilst making full use of the Lisbon Treaty. But to go further, it needs to reform itself more substantially.
The views of the European Parliament in various policy areas are at the centre, but these opinions are compared with the proposals from Juncker and Macron.
I have not yet found other language versions of the publication about the EP’s vision on the future of Europe, but maybe one of my queries will receive a response.

Ralf Grahn

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