New EU Treaty will weaken position of member states

23 June 2007

New EU Treaty will weaken position of member states

Heads of state and government meeting in Brussels as the European Council have reached a compromise over a new EU Treaty stripped of its "constitutional" frills. The agreement nevertheless represents a weakening of the position of the member states, with veto rights being surrendered in a number of policy areas. Nor will national parliaments be given the power to return proposals to the European Commission for reconsideration. On balance, the SP is for these reasons far from happy with the summit's results.

Harry van Bommel For SP Member of Parliament and spokesman on European affairs Harry van Bommel, the removal of the symbols such as the flag and anthem from the original Constitutional Treaty was of far less importance than "the position of the member states in relation to the European Union and the extent to which undesirable proposals can be resisted. The right of veto is in this respect the strongest weapon and this has been surrendered in the policy areas of asylum, justice, climate and energy. The position of national parliaments has arguably been strengthened with the granting of a sort of yellow card instead of a red, but this isn't enough."

The creation of a president with a term of two-and-a-half years also represents, in the SP's view, an unacceptable power-grab. "He or she will want to enlarge the powers of the office," Van Bommel said, "and this is completely unacceptable."

In the SP's view, the government is greatly exaggerating the significance of the changes in the new agreement when set aside the Constitutional Treaty voted down by the electorate, as well as that of France, two years ago. Nobody had much of a problem with either the European anthem or the twelve-star flag, as it turned out, and these will remain. In addition, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will remain in the form of a reference which will give it legal force. The fact that designations such as 'constitution' and 'Minister of Foreign Affairs" have been dropped is to be welcomed, but does nothing to balance the changes for the worse.

The agreement will, Van Bommel believes, lead to a radical transformation of the existing Treaty on European Union, the current basis of the European Union adopted at Maastricht and amended since by the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice. "Because of the serious weakening of the position of the member states, approval of the treaty in a referendum is absolutely necessary," he said.

The agreement reached in Brussels in the early hours of Saturday morning represents only the broad outline of an accord, a sort of "agreement to agree". The hard work will begin now, in the form of an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) which will attempt to put flesh on the bones of the European Council's text during the Portuguese presidency, which begins on July 1st and ends with the year. If the IGC succeeds in arriving at a proposed Treaty during the autumn, the Netherlands should organise a referendum in the first half of 2008. The SP will, together with other parties, be bringing forward just such a proposal.

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