European Union ( EU ) Constitution
Frankly I think it is a major miracle that the 25 Nations of Europe have managed to agree a 'Constitution' for the Union which both tidies up existing treaty arrangements and reforms some of the structures to better reflect a union of twenty five - without neutering it to the point of pointlessness.
PRESIDENT OF EUROPEAN COUNCIL
New job, proposed to replace the EU's current six-month rotating system. To be elected by a qualified majority of European Council (member states' leaders) for a two-and-a-half year term, renewable once. In case of serious malpractice EU governments can end the mandate.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
Group of three countries to chair ministerial councils (such as agriculture, home affairs, transport etc) for 18 months, under overall control of new president.
External affairs council, however, to be chaired by new foreign minister (see below), and eurozone finance ministers' council to get new president for two-and-a-half years.
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
New post, to be appointed by a qualified majority of member states. The foreign minister to be responsible for security and defence policy, replacing jobs currently held by Chris Patten and Javier Solana.
Gathers leaders of member states. To meet four times a year. To take decisions by consensus, unless constitution provides otherwise.
The independent EU executive, with power to initiate legislation and oversee its implementation.
The constitution calls for slimming down the executive to two-thirds of the number of member states in 2014, unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this figure.
Enacts legislation jointly with the Council of Ministers, and sees its powers of oversight expanded in the new constitution.
To elect Commission president. Size limited to 750 members. No member state is given more than 96 seats and no fewer than six.
QUALIFIED MAJORITY VOTING (QMV)
All but the most sensitive EU decisions to be decided by a so-called "double majority" system under which an EU decision would need support of 55 percent of member countries, compromising at least 15 of them and representing 65 percent of the bloc's population.
These threshholds were raised from 50 and 60 percent respectively in an initial draft, after pressure from middle-sized states fearing domination by EU heavyweights.
A blocking minority must include at least four members of the European Council or the qualified majority is considered attained.
As another safeguard, if EU members are acting on their own rather than the European commission or the foreign affairs minister's initiative, they must muster a majority of 72 percent of states with 65 percent of the population.
On issues where only some countries have the right to vote, for instance on eurozone questions, other rules for the qualified majority will be defined.
Changes in foreign affairs, defence and tax law will still require unanimity.
EU countries would be bound to come to each's other defence in case of attack.
This was already adopted by EU leaders in the wake of the Madrid terrorist attacks in March.
EU law shall have primacy over national legislation.
Current raft of legislative devices are to be replaced by six legal measures: laws, framework laws, regulations, decisions, recommendations and opinions.
The constitution establishes the EU as a legal body with power to sign international treaties.
"Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union."
ROLE OF RELIGION
The preamble to the constitution says the EU draws its "inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, democracy, equality, freedom and the rule of law."
The Vatican and Roman Catholic countries such as Poland and Spain pressed for the constitution's preamble to refer to Europe's Christian heritage, but in vain.
"The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights."
If one member state seriously flouts the bedrock EU values, the rest could decide by a qualified majority to suspend it.
The constitution sets out for the first time in EU law that a member state can leave the bloc if it so chooses.
- CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
Britain won its battle to ensure that the charter, which forms Part II of the constitution, does not override national laws on sensitive issues such as employment legislation.
Posted by Paul in European Union Politics at June 19, 2004 03:06 AM | 3 Comments