Will Nice be a success?

12 January 2000

The European Council at Nice will take decisions affecting the future of the continent for many years to come. On the eve of this historic occasion, we call upon the European leaders to be ambitious and to ensure that there is a successful conclusion to the present Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) at Nice. Success will be measured to the extent that the European Union reforms its institutions and decision-making processes to ensure that enlargement succeeds. Failure at Nice could imperil the unification of Europe. If, despite their efforts, the EU leaders are unable to meet the minimum requirements to make Nice a success, they must not mislead the public in claiming a success.

This paper sets out these minimum requirements. Attention is drawn to Article 2 of the Enlargement Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam which states: "At least one year before the membership of the European Union exceeds twenty, a conference of representatives of governments of the Member States shall be convened in order to carry out a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Treaties on the composition and functioning of the institutions." This needs to be borne in mind when reviewing the decisions taken at Nice. We believe that the main task, at this stage of European integration, is to agree a strategic vision for tomorrow's Europe and to give the Union the means of achieving it. While supporting far-reaching reforms of the institutional structure and working methods of the EU, the basic distinction between intergovernmentalism and the Community method must not be blurred. The central role of the Commission in providing political input and pursuing the common good has been and will be critically important in ensuring the continued success of European integration.

What constitutes a success?

In our view, agreement on the following issues is essential: ·Weighting of qualified majority voting (QMV) must better reflect the underlying populations of the Member States. ·There must be an ultimate limitation on the number of Commissioners. ·The treaty conditions enabling closer cooperation must be relaxed so that they may be used in practice. This requires the minimum number of Member States not to be higher than eight and that there be no veto. The Commission must play the same role in the second and third pillars as it plays in the first pillar. ·QMV must become the general rule in the Council of Ministers and unanimity drastically curtailed (see below) with the co-decision procedure applying to all policy areas in respect of which QMV is to be applied. ·A post-Nice process must be agreed (see below).

Changing from unanimity to QMV

The following are the five essential policy areas which must become subject to QMV:

External trade policy (Article 133) For the EU to play a fully-fledged and effective role in international trade negotiations, QMV must be extended to agreements related to trade in goods and services, investment and intellectual property. This should be done by a simple, unconditional amendment to Article 133. Amendment by means of a protocol imposing restrictions should be rejected. The Presidency should not be given the right to accompany the Commission in negotiations. Without such extension of this article, the Union’s effectiveness in negotiating international trade agreements will be severely curtailed and a mockery made of the professed desire of EU leaders to increase the Union’s influence in external policy.

Structure and Cohesion Funds (Arts 159, 161) In order to preserve the vital contribution of economic and social cohesion policies to further European integration and to adapt their tasks, priorities and organisation to the enlarged Union, decisions must be taken by QMV.

Social security (Art 42) Real freedom of movement for workers and persons treated as such, one of the four fundamental freedoms, cannot be achieved if QMV does not apply to measures related to social security.

Asylum, immigration and judicial cooperation in civil matters (Art 67) This is essential because of increasing numbers of immigrants and the beggar-thy-neighbour policies of Member States. Under the present voting rules, it would not be possible effectively to implement the Tampere agenda and the establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice would therefore be hampered. This problem would be exacerbated with the enlargement of the Union.

Tax measures distorting the single market (Arts 93, 175) The proper functioning of the single market - and the competitiveness of European economy - requires the extension of QMV to measures updating or simplifying existing Community rules, relating to turnover tax, excise duties and other areas of indirect taxation, and to measures preventing fraud, tax evasion and circumvention of existing rules. QMV must also apply to provisions necessary for mutual assistance and cooperation between tax authorities.

Post-Nice process

Further Treaty reforms will clearly be needed. A transparent, open and truly democratic process should begin post-Nice, leading to a further IGC before or in parallel with enlargement. This process should begin with a Convention broadly along the lines of that which led to agreement on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It would be illusory to consider that the minimum requirements to make Nice a success, outlined in this paper, will be sufficient to meet the historic challenge of enlargement eastwards. Wider issues must be seriously debated and fundamental choices made within a comprehensive and strategic approach. This is why we call upon the European Council at Nice to outline a process whereby, before enlargement takes place, an ambitious vision for Europe will be shaped, supporting the integration of the continent for many years to come and conforming to the requirements of the Amsterdam Treaty’s Enlargement Protocol.

The post-Nice process must address at least four core questions:

The ultimate objectives of European integration and the methods needed to achieve them.

The Union’s citizens are entitled to have a clear answer to the two questions: Why Europe? What Europe? ·A further examination of the treaty provisions which, after Nice, still apply unanimous voting in Council. ·The simplification of the Treaties, including separating out the constitutional provisions. An in-depth examination is required as to whether, and if so how, the Charter of Fundamental Rights should be legally incorporated into the Treaties. ·The role and composition of the Commission, which must be able to perform - effectively, independently and consistently - its essential role of political input, control of policy implementation and guardian of the rule of law, in accordance with the principle of collective responsibility. The Commission should consist of one Commissioner per Member State from 2005. The ultimate size of the Commission should be capped and a rotating system between the Member States introduced. The President and the Commissioners should be appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority. The President should (without detracting from the principle of collegiality) have the right to appoint vice-presidents, allocate and re-allocate portfolios and responsibilities, and require a Commissioner to resign.

Peter Sutherland - Chairman of The EPC Advisory Board
Karel Van Miert - Member of The EPC Advisory Board
Stanley Crossick - Chairman of The EPC
Hywel Ceri Jones - Chairman of The EPC Executive Board
Max Kohnstamm - The EPC Director
John Palmer - The EPC Director.