10 May, 2007
The June 2007 roadmap - “A new vision for the project Europe?”
On 9 May, the UEF organized a public debate in the Eastman Building of the European Parliament on the future of Europe in the perspective of the June 2007 European Council summit that will have to decide on a roadmap for a new EU Treaty.
The debate, that took place in the framework of the Speak up Europe debate series, featured a panel of experts assembled by the UEF. The panel was composed of two MEPs, Jens Peter BONDE (Independence / Democracy Group) and Ínigo MÉNDEZ de VIGO (European People’s Party) and a representative of the civil society Raymond Van ERMEN (Permanent Forum of Civil Society). The debate was moderated by UEF Secretary General, Friedhelm FRISCHENSCHLAGER and commented by Simon TAYLOR (Senior Political Reporter of European Voice).

MR. FRISCHENSCHLAGER addressed the panel with a few questions on the future of the European Union such as “Do we need a EU with more integration, more democracy? Has Europe reached its limits? Will Europe go back to a simple Union of intergovernmental cooperation?

The moderator then gave each panelist 5 minutes to express his position on the possible future, outcome and solution of the June 2007 roadmap.

Jens Peter BONDE, who is known in the EU circle as a European realist started the ball rolling and expressed his views and concerns on the current situation. According to MEP BONDE, the main problem of the discussion for the revised Treaty or Constitution is that it doesn’t involve the people “The only possible way forward is to have a direct elected convention that would discuss the text chapter by chapter and submit the text to the European citizens by holding referenda in every country in Europe. Beside, if you decide to hold a referendum, you bind yourself to reach an agreement on a text the content of which must be presentable to the people”.

Ínigo MÉNDEZ de VIGO defended the community method and stressed that it “has largely proved efficient, and therefore we should stick to it and keep as much as possible of the Constitutional Treaty since it goes beyond the community method and improves it in a way that would simplify greatly the decision making of the EU”.

Raymond VAN ERMEN made clear that a crisis always offers room for new opportunities “We should seize this crisis opportunity and make sure that the new Treaty acts as an accelerator of progress. The roadmap has to give an effective response to the citizens’ concerns and address”. Mr. VAN ERMEN also mentioned that some new challenges have come up since the Convention and that these new issues were not dealt with in the European Constitution. Therefore, he claimed that a new policy approach was needed to tackle issues such as the climate change, the energy independence and the competition against emerging economies “The new Treaty is an opportunity for the EU to retrieve the citizens’ confidence, to become the leading economy in terms of well being and low carbon emissions and to act as a key partner of development with its direct neighbors.”

He also demanded that the new Treaty be submitted to a consultation to the European citizens by 2009.

After the short interventions by the panel, Simon TAYLOR drew his first comments. Mr. TAYLOR questioned the idea of having a new convention as it would take a long time to set up and take even more time to draw conclusions. Moreover, he reminded the panel that the intentions of most member states was to keep as much of the constitution as possible. Mr. TAYLOR then pointed out the danger of binding referenda since “people’s voting habits are still directed by national politics”.

The panelists were given the chance to react to the other speakers’ interventions. Mr. MÉNDEZ DE VIGO insisted that if the original text was to be cut down, then some new elements should be added too. BONDE expressed his concerns on the lack of transparency of the decision process in the EU whereas MÉNDEZ DE VIGO described the European Union as “an international organisation of integration in which we seek for consensus”.

Among the many questions that were addressed by the audience, the need for a new convention arose, the cost of non-communication in the EU, the nature of the referendum and its possible turnout, a multi-speed Europe and many more.

The debate was concluded by commentator Simon TAYLOR who asked the question to what extent the EU’s economy and institutions were effective “A European public space is a nice ambition but we are a very long way from anything like it”.

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