Contract change is “necessary”, says Ursula von der Leyen
In her State of the Union speech on Wednesday (September 14), EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen supported a constitutional convention to reform the EU treaties. She also insisted that leaders must take EU reform seriously.
Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday, she said: “If we are serious about the enlargement of the EU, we must also reform seriously [de cette dernière]. As this Parliament has asked for [une modification des traités]I believe that the time has come to create a European Convention”.
However, she gave little guidance or detail on where the treaty reform process should focus, other than calling for the treaties to be anchored “Generational Solidarity”.
The issue of treaty change, last reformed by the Lisbon Treaty that came into force in 2009, has sparked renewed interest since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Several governments have complained about the slowness with which sanctions against the Kremlin are being passed due to the need to reach unanimity for such measures.
Policies requiring treaty change are also among the recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), the year-long experiment in participatory democracy that concluded earlier this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also sparked calls for reforms to facilitate cooperation between member states in the event of a health emergency.
A convention bringing together representatives of the Union’s 27 national governments does not guarantee reform of the Treaties, but it is the next stage of the process.
If the Twenty-Seven agree on the need for such reform, they will set up an Intergovernmental Conference charged with working out the changes to be made to the Treaties.
“Some people might say it’s not the right time. However, if we are serious about preparing for the world of tomorrow, we need to be able to act on the areas that matter most to citizens.”said Frau von der Leyen.
In June, MEPs backed a resolution calling on EU governments to introduce a constitutional convention, and Member States are legally obliged to respond by October.
Von der Leyen’s comments were immediately welcomed by the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, who told EURACTIV that the next step is to win the support of national governments.
“This Parliament has asked for this article of the Treaty to be opened up. Now we need a simple majority in the Council. I will work to ensure that every government takes citizens’ demands into account.”She said.
Referring to the need to follow up European citizens’ recommendations during the CoFoE, Ms Metsola added “The worst thing we could do is close our eyes. We can’t ask our citizens to tell us what they want from us just for us to tell them we won’t do any of it.”.
A Nordic-led group of governments are opposed to a treaty change and say the EU should instead focus on managing the impact of the crisis.
The Commission President also backed the creation of a “European political community,” an idea championed by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year that would present an alternative to EU membership, full EU membership for countries like the UK and Ukraine share European values of trade, rule of law and democracy.
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