Friday, June 25, 2004

The things they say

A round-up of comment from European "stakeholders" on the EU constitution, courtesy of EurActiv:

"C'est un bon texte pour l'Europe, c'est un bon texte pour les Européens [This is a good text for Europe, a good text for Europeans]," said Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe at a joint press briefing on 21 June with Vice Chairman Jean-Luc Dehaene.

Giscard d'Estaing welcomed the adoption of the Constitution which, they underlined, has retained more than 90 per cent of the text proposed by the Convention. Dehaene highlighted the importance of the Convention-method which "has brought with it something new in European affairs."

A press release by UNICE, the EU-wide umbrella organisation representing employers, states that the new Constitutional Treaty provides a good basis to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU, enhance the economies of the EU and their ability to fully realise the potentials of monetary union, and to strengthen the EU's economic power on the international stage.

UEAPME, the European Association of Craft Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, has regretted the failure of the European Council to give the go-ahead for extending qualified majority voting to taxation. "We have now a framework that ensures the long term viability of the decision making process in an enlarged Europe, but we still have an obstacle to the finalisation of the Internal Market which is the unanimity vote rule for taxation issues," said Hans-Werner Müller, Secretary General of UEAPME.

ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation, has regretted the fact that "the agreement has reduced ambitions, compared to the draft of the European Convention". A press release issued on 21 June acknowledges that while the Constitutional Treaty is a big step forward in comparison with the Nice Treaty, in relation to the Convention's draft, the IGC resulted in a "second best solution".

The EU Civil Society Contact Group, comprising NGOs in six policy areas (environment, social, women, development, human rights and culture) has welcomed the Convention process which involved civil society organisations and trade unions but deplored the IGC process which resulted in a "political deal but not a vision for Europe."

Political parties

The Greens in the European Parliament have expressed dissatisfaction with the intergovernmental method. "The change from the convention method to the intergovernmental method has resulted in the Council settling on the lowest common denominator. The heads of state and government were more concerned about their ability to block decisions than to make decisions," said Johannes Voggenhuber, Member of the European Convention.

Chairman of the Group of the European People's Party (to which the Conservative MEPs are afficiliated) Hans-Gert Pöttering has said that the Constitution was "the basis for our common future" although he regretted the fact that Council voting has proven to be a "complex compromise" which due to different "exception mechanisms" [blocking minorities, etc] "is not characterised by great clarity" and has not led to the simplification of the decision making procedures.

"Despite the red lines and the last minute manoeuvring, the new enlarged Europe just got the deal it needed," said Graham Watson, leader of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Group in the European Parliament. "The Governments who have approved this Constitution now have a duty to go home and sell it to their people," said Watson.

President of the Party of European Socialists Group Enrique Barón and PES leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen stated in a joint press release that "The constitution (...) will serve as a good basis on which we can work for a more just and social Europe".


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