How far are the member countries ready to go to reform the European treaties?

How far are the member countries ready to go to reform the European treaties?

The Czech Republic started its semester at the head of the Council of the European Union by preparing a questionnaire for the members of the bloc to see if and in which areas the states would be open to changes in the decision-making process of the Union.

The questionnaire will focus on “the changes that can be made within the framework of the current treaties, in particular through the bridging clause”Czech Minister for EU Affairs Mikuláš Bek told EURACTIV Czech Republic.

The 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, which governs the functioning of the EU, includes so-called ‘passerelle’ clauses which can allow the provisions of the agreement to be modified without the need to modify the treaty as a whole.

However, the activation of a bridging clause aimed at abolishing unanimity voting in certain political areas, particularly in the area of ​​foreign policy, would require the agreement of all the ministers in charge of European affairs within the Council and, in some cases, that of the European Parliament.

For decades, the reform of the treaties has been the subject of discussions, but these have remained largely theoretical. However, the issue has gained prominence on the European political landscape in recent months, with the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), the EU’s exercise in deliberative democracy in which citizens were able to express themselves on the development of Union policies.

Mr. Bek admitted that the ” strong “ recommendation of European citizens to abandon unanimous voting is a “politically contentious and highly controversial issue”.

“On the other hand, there might be some leeway for some changes”said the Czech minister.

The introduction of qualified majority voting — which requires the participation of at least 15 of the 27 countries representing at least 65% of the EU’s total population — for matters of security and foreign policy is now very unlikely.

On the other hand, the end of unanimity is possible in specific areas, such as for the drawing up of sanctions lists.

“We would like the Member States to try to identify the points for which it is possible to imagine a passage from unanimity to qualified majority”explained Mr. Bek.

The CoFoE ended on May 9 with a closing ceremony in Strasbourg, where Emmanuel Macron presented his alternative to enlargement and Ursula Von der Leyen hinted that she was in favor of changing the EU treaties .

However, Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica told EURACTIV that member states will have the final say on treaty change, which will be the last resort for following up on citizens’ recommendations.

Mr Bek admitted that the questionnaire sent to Member States is linked to the convening of a Convention for the opening of the treaties which the European Parliament formally presented at the beginning of June. The results of the survey should be presented before the October meeting of EU ministers at the General Affairs Council, Bek said.

In accordance with Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Council must vote by simple majority to examine the European Parliament’s proposal to convene a Convention for the opening of the Treaties.

Not all Member States wish to discuss such changes. ” An important number [d’entre eux] considers that it is not realistic that such a debate could take place as early as October in the Council, because there will be very urgent questions on the table, such as energy before next winter”.

However, according to former Liberal MEP and constitutional law expert Andrew Duff, the Council must respond formally to EU lawmakers by October 9, otherwise they can “sue the Council before the Court of Justice for not having acted on its resolution”.

To react, there are several options, “including a debate on whether or not to convene a Convention, possibly prepared by an independent think tank”Mr. Bek said.

Berlin plans to abolish unanimity in foreign policy

Germany, for its part, has long been a supporter of EU reform and is currently stepping up its efforts to abolish the unanimity rule in foreign policy.

Over the weekend, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned of the consequences of disunity among member states and called for reform in the bloc as the EU can no longer afford the use of national vetoes.

“The permanent disunity between member states weakens us. That is why Europe’s most important response to the Zeitenwende is: unity”wrote Mr. Scholz in a column published in the FAZ newspaper on Sunday.

Maintaining this degree of unity would be of utmost importance in an increasingly multipolar and geopolitical world, Scholz stressed.

“For me, this means an end to the selfish blocking of European decisions by individual member states. Finish the [États membres] who are going it alone and harming Europe as a whole. We simply can no longer afford national vetoes, for example on foreign policy, if we are to continue to be heard in a world of competing great powers. »

So far, Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine has met with an unprecedented degree of unity among EU member states. However, due to rising inflation and gas shortages, experts fear this solidarity could weaken, with Hungary already announcing on Wednesday (13 July) that it would stop exporting gas to its neighbors in the EU. EU.

However, according to Mr Scholz, it is now time to close ranks in all the areas where the EU has struggled for too long to find solutions – such as migration policy, the establishment of a European defense as well as sovereignty. technological.

“Germany will make concrete proposals on this in the coming months”said Mr. Scholz.

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