Speech José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission at 3rd Joint Parliamentary meeting on the Future of Europe

Speech Barroso 12-06-07 Treaty

European Parliament, Brussels, 12 June 2007.

Let me start my speech with a quote: "Answering the expectations of our citizens is surely the best way to create a climate in which the institutional issues can be tackled. We need to move step by step. An active policy agenda gives the confidence to citizens that Europe is united and focused on their key goals". This is taken from the Commission's Plan D for democracy, dialogue and debate", from October 2005. It served as the basis for a later Commission Communication, "A Citizen's Agenda: Delivering Results for Europe". I would like to emphasise two central ideas from the Commission strategy: first, the recognition that the text of the Constitutional Treaty would make the Union more accountable, more cohesive and more effective; secondly, the best way to resolve the institutional impasse is by delivering results to European citizens.

The "twin-track" strategy moved then step by step until March 2007. The Spring European Council agreed on delivering results in the areas of energy and climate change that will strongly influence the Union of the 21st century. The follow-up of these positive results was the Berlin Declaration, signed by Chancellor Merkel, President Pöttering and myself to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Rome Treaty. The Berlin European Council set the conditions to resolve the institutional impasse. After March, we started the consultation period led by the German Presidency.

We are now entering a crucial time in the process towards a Treaty settlement. Next week, at the European Council, we will be taking vital decisions regarding the future of the European Union. In particular, the European Council will discuss a road-map and a mandate for an IGC, in order to reform the current Treaties. There is a strong commitment to find a solution, positive to all Member States and for Europe as a whole. Let me offer three reasons why we need a new Treaty.

1A Treaty that reinforces the EU's capacity to act

The need to reinforce the European Union's capacity to act is the first reason that leads me to defend a new Treaty. There is a direct connection between Europe's effectiveness in delivering results and the right Treaty settlement. The process of Treaty reform is not a diversion for the sake of institutional games, nor is its purpose to increase the power of "Brussels". What is at stake in this process is having the right tools to improve the efficiency, the cohesion and the solidarity of the European Union to deliver better results for citizens. European citizens, not "Brussels", will benefit from the reforms. In other words, a better Europe able to deliver more results requires a Treaty settlement. I have said this many times before, and I will repeat it as often as it is necessary.

The reinforcement of the EU's capacity to act is particularly important at the external level. I was last week in the G8 Meeting in Heiligendamm. Some things were clear to me. A Europe that speaks with a single voice is better equipped to defend our values and interests at the global level. It is quite obvious that the world, from our most important partners, like the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia, but also the populations of those regions in great need of global support, like Africa, call for Europe's leadership and expect us to deliver. We have a historical opportunity to shape globalization. The new Treaty has to provide the instruments for a more effective and a more coherent voice for Europe in world politics. During the last half century, we created a peaceful and just political order in a reunited Europe. To achieve this, we overcame serious and threatening challenges and obstacles. The narrative for the next fifty years is about extending that peaceful and just order worldwide, in concert with our allies and partners. The narrative for Europe is not just about Europe but also about the world. Losing this opportunity would be the greatest failure of our political generation.

2. A signature and ratification of a new Treaty will be a moment of solidarity and unity in Europe

There is also a political reason to defend a Treaty settlement. A new Treaty will bring about a fundamental change: it will clear away the shadows of doubts and divisions which resulted from the failure of the process of ratification. Let's face reality that not all Member States were able to ratify the Treaty that they have all signed. When we have a problem, we have to solve it. What I am saying to Member States is: please help us solve this if we are not to create a set of new problems.

It is quite ironic to have the shadow of division over the Union at the same time as we celebrate enlargement and the reunification of Europe as a great political success. Indeed, one of the greatest achievements of our history. We should look forward to the ratification process of a new Treaty as a great moment of solidarity and unity in Europe. The fact that the 12 new Member States fully participate for the first time in the entire process of Treaty settlement should be seen as a historical opportunity to consolidate the enlarged European Union.

If we fail again to get the Treaty settlement, the implications will be very negative:

- Those who want a strong political Europe will have the possibility to have a very weak and divided one;

- Those who want an open market will see more and more protectionism;

- Those who want and need more solidarity and more cohesion will have a Europe of egoisms and narrow national interests.

As for the European Commission, we defend an open, politically strong and a Europe committed to the principle of solidarity.

3. A New Treaty increases the role of national parliaments

Another main reason for the Commission's support of a new Treaty is the need to reinforce the principles of accountability and subsidiarity. One of the reasons for our support of the Constitutional Treaty is the increased role of national parliaments. The provisions on national parliaments were a significant step. They should be preserved in the new Treaty.

The key substance was in two protocols attached to the Constitutional Treaty, one on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union, and the other on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. These seek to create a direct political relationship between national parliaments and European Institutions, including of course the Commission. In particular, national parliaments could give a reasoned opinion on whether a draft European legislative act complied with the principle of subsidiarity within six weeks after its transmission. If a third of parliaments shared the same concerns, the Commission would review its proposal on those grounds. In other words, the Constitutional Treaty provided for the right of national parliaments to receive information from European institutions and for a role in controlling the principle of subsidiarity, while respecting the roles of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission

The setback for the Constitutional Treaty meant that this new role did not materialize. However, it is a sign of the Commission's commitment to developing relations with national parliaments that we nevertheless went ahead with measures in the spirit of the Constitutional Treaty, to better associate national parliaments. In May 2006, I announced the intention of the Commission to transmit its new proposals and consultation papers to the national parliaments, inviting them to react so as to improve the process of policy formulation. Since September 2006, the new system has been working in a smooth way. The Commission has received 96 opinions from 23 national parliaments on 51 of its proposals. Our analyses so far of the results and our contacts with national parliaments led us to draw a very positive assessment of this new process. Our contacts with national parliaments suggest that they have found it useful in three ways: providing an opportunity for national parliaments to take a more pro-active attitude about European issues; the right of information; and leaving national parliaments better placed to scrutinize their own governments. The interest of national parliaments in using this new mechanism is also a proof of your commitment to the European Union.  

At the same time, I and the other Commissioners have visited, discussed and given speeches in national parliaments. Indeed, I have committed myself to visit all national parliaments during my mandate. We have also presented our work programme to national parliaments. I can safely say that no other Commission has had such frequent and systematic contacts with national Parliaments. This is the result of my strong belief in the principle of subsidiarity, which derives in turn from respect for three central values of European construction: liberty, pluralism, and respect for national political processes.  

4. An appeal to national governments to agree on a Treaty settlement

As a former member of Parliament, former leader of opposition and as a former prime minister, I fully understand the dilemmas and the difficulties of the Heads of governments. It is not always easy to reconcile the national interest with European interests. But it is a serious political mistake not to try hard. It is impossible to have a Treaty fully in accordance with the national preferences of each individual Member State. However, the crucial interest of all governments is to have a strong and efficient Union that reinforces Member States. This explains why Governments should invest political capital in European construction. The moment to do it is next week in the European Council. It also explains why we cannot have an agreement at any cost. We need to have a better Treaty than Nice. The Commission position is in line with the Baron Crespo / Brok Resolution of the European Parliament. The more we step back from the advances of the Constitutional Treaty, the less we will have a Europe ready to tackle the policy challenges of the 21st century.

There are four key points which should be respected if we are to give citizens the Union they need. First, we cannot accept any dilution of the Single Market. Secondly, the institutional balance of the Union must be preserved. This means the respect for the primacy of European Union law, the preservation of the Community method and the right of initiative of the Commission, no backtracking on advances in QMV and co-decision with the European Parliament, and respect for the right of information and consultation of the national Parliaments. Otherwise, the institutional balance would be seriously damaged. We put in question the principles of our Community, a Community that is based on law.

The third point concerns the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Several Member States are pushing to remove the Charter from the text of the Treaty. This position is perhaps a logical extension of the idea that the treaty should no longer have a Constitutional flavour. But this need and must not mean that the Charter loses its legal force. And here let me be very frank and clear. I do not understand those who see the Charter as meaning extra power for "Brussels" or a threat to the Member States. On the contrary, the Charter protects, it is a safeguard both for European citizens and for national institutions. It is a central part of the system of checks and balances, so central to our Union of law.  I find it difficult to accept that a democrat is against a Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Finally, it is important to preserve the advances in policies introduced by the Constitutional Treaty, particularly in the domains of justice and home affairs and in external relations. We also should look at how to introduce climate change and energy into the Treaty in a correct institutional way.

If we want to succeed, we must invest as much as possible in the results of the European Council. We need to be able to launch a focused IGC with a clear mandate negotiating a limited list of issues. I can assure you that the Commission, and myself, will be playing a leading role: as an active facilitator of common positions, as a source of expertise and ideas, and of course as the voice of the common European interest. I really believe that today in the 21st century we need a strong European Union. To do that, we need a Treaty that is more efficient, more democratic and brings more coherence externally.