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IGC Constitution. Barnier refutes the criticisms of the deputies

Michel Barnier refutes the criticisms of the deputies – vote of the commissioners, more flexible revision procedure, simultaneous ratification

(B2) A few days before the opening of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), the European Commissioner in charge of the dossier, Michel Barnier, spoke to Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee on the Commission's latest proposals. Beforehand, the chairman of the committee, the Italian Giorgio Napolitano (PES) made a point of firmly expressing his concern at the vagueness surrounding the number of observers that Parliament will be able to send to the IGC. " We still do not know how the Parliament will participate » he thus remarked before hoping « Parliament will be informed of the results immediately ».

The debate that followed took place without really heated issues, even if some parliamentarians tried to liven it up by expressing some reproaches and a little bitterness towards the “lone rider” of the European Commission. To Johannes Voggenhuber (Greens, Germany) who criticized the Commission “ to want to call into question the balance achieved within the Convention between national parliaments, governments and European institutions ", the commissioner blamed himself for undoing the " dynamic consensus undermined the Convention, preferring to shift the responsibility to governments. " These same Ministers who themselves have the power to decide, who participated in this consensus, do not hesitate to question this or that part of the consensus ". Michel Barnier has also minimized the differences in approach between the two institutions. " Between the Parliament and the Commission, there are more semantic differences than substantive ones ". Just as he put the importance of the requested changes into perspective. " Our desire is to propose some improvements (on the composition of the Commission, the extension of the qualified majority, the evolution of the future Constitution). » Without getting “of illusions from elsewhere on the result. But he recalled his conviction: We can, we must, strive to improve, to clarify, to specify (the current project).” The Commission " in memory of Europe. From the beginning, since the High Authority of Coal and Steel, we have known that there are a certain number of attitudes and methods which lead to progress, others to blockage. » he hammered, highlighting the agreement with the current presidency of the IGC. “The Italian Presidency has identified eight points for progress on which the Commission agrees. We simply added one point, on economic governance.”

To Jens-Peter Bonde (EDD, Denmark) who asked him about the role of the commissioners, Michel Barnier defended " the fact that each country is represented on the Commission », an oh so delicate position when we know that the commissioner was personally against this solution. But, he says, “it is important that each commissioner be able to do the work of raising awareness among his population”. In this logic, all commissioners must have the right to vote».

On the review procedure, the Commissioner followed Jo Leinen (PES, Germany) on the need to act. Unlike " Valéry Giscard D'Estaing who estimated that the Constitution could last 50 years", le
deputy showed his side “less optimistic, I would simply say 5 years. However, in 2009, we will be 27 around the table. " Without going into this quarrel of prognosis, Michel Barnier recalled his " agreement on a more flexible revision of the Constitution: at least on chapter 3, using the method of the Convention with a ratification of 5/6e member states ". A point that is all the more necessary since, in response to a question from Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufman (GUE/NGL, Germany), the Commissioner acknowledged that certain parts of the draft Constitution deserved corrections. " Due to lack of time, we didn't really work on chapter 3,” he regretted. “There should be better coherence between parts 1 and 3 (of the Constitution)… on research, health, social and economic cohesion. Quite frankly it would require a rewrite of the policies, a new wording or at least the possibility of modifying it later. Otherwise, he warned, “ the risk is real after 2006 of never being able to change anything again. ".

On the ratification of the Constitution, the Commissioner took up his idea of ​​having a simultaneous ratification, coupled with a real European debate, why not around May 9. “I am for a major European debate rather than 25 juxtaposed national debates. » But he added: “ I do not imagine that the election campaign for parliament will begin and that this work will not be finished. "In the end, on the issue of the IGC, Michel Barnier wanted to be optimistic" If all the requests from Member States add up, there is a risk; if they neutralize each other, then this year we will approach a real new Treaty of Rome ».

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

(Published in Agence Europe 30/09/2003)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).