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What Problems Have Rendered A European Constitution Necessary?

2111 words - 8 pages

The forthcoming expansion of the EU with its burgeoning responsibilities for greater integration set in motion a reform process at the Nice Summit in 2000, which issued a declaration calling for a 'deep and wide' (1) debate on the EU's future (5,11). The resulting Treaty of Nice (21), signed in February 2001, made certain limited changes to how the EU operated so as to facilitate enlargement. There was much criticism of the Treaty since many felt it did not address the real issues that enlargement would bring. More was needed. However, the debate on the future of Europe, called for by the Nice Declaration , led to the Laeken Summit in 2001 to establish the Convention on Europe's future (11), or a constitutional convention. This started in March 2002, with the presentation of its final report planned in June 2003 and eventually culminating in the Constitutional Treaty to be presented at the next IGC in 2004. The ongoing debate involves civil society circles, including NGOs, Trade Unions and academics as well as applicant countries (5,10,11). The revising of the EU machinery with the help of a documented constitution was felt to be necessary to tackle a plethora of interrelated problems (3,4,5,6,11,22) that the EU in its present state faces. "There are weaknesses in the EU that must be eliminated", the Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt stated at the summit (2). All the problems the enlarged EU faces have a common denominator, the expectations of the 'Euro-citizens'.Even with improved social rights for its citizens, there is a democratic void within Europe's powerhouse, and its citizens disinterested in the European machinery. They support its broad aims, but find the institutions unwieldy, inefficient, rigid and opaque. The people of Europe want a common European policy on certain social issues, environment and security, whilst at the same time wish for the retention of national sovereignty (22).The Convention is exploring ways to improve the 'democratic deficit' of the Union. Current proposals indicate an attempt to consolidate the Parliament's legislative role, the Council's legislative function to be clearly identified and separated from its Executive functions, the role of European political parties to be strengthened, methods for involving national parliaments in European decisions, and making council decisions more transparent and open (12,22). It also needs to make amendments on voting rules in the Council of Ministers, to give a stronger voice to the smaller member states, to hold a larger Union together (7). The Nice Treaty has given greater procedural efficacy in decision making within the council, by a greater degree of qmv and co-decisive powers of legislation to the Parliament (21).The leadership should be effective to manage a more complex Union, be democratic and maintain the Union's institutional balance (25). The Nice provisions come a long way towards satisfying these criteria. The qmv system of the council may make the appointment of...

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