Zten minutes were reserved for the French President to conclude the conference on the future of Europe. But Emmanuel Macron did not hold out, he spoke for a good half hour. After twenty minutes, the sentence that many expected at the Strasbourg plenum fell. To be able to decide effectively, even in normal times, “we must reform our texts”. The European Parliament has therefore called for the establishment of a convention for the revision of the European treaties, “and I agree with that”, he declared. Applause broke out in the room where the members of the conference sat who, after a year of deliberations, had proposed far-reaching reforms.
For example, unanimity in foreign, fiscal and budgetary policy must be abolished, even if states are penalized under the Article 7 procedure for serious breaches of the rule of law. So far, Hungary and Poland have been able to help each other; that would be omitted. Only the enlargement of the Union must be decided unanimously. Furthermore, the European Parliament should be able to initiate legislation itself; which is still reserved for the Commission. Health policy should become a shared competence of Member States and the European Commission. So far, the Commission has only been able to provide coordination in this area, but its real competence in the production of vaccines in the event of a pandemic has gone much further. European investments should be regularly financed with European debt – the Corona reconstruction fund as a model.
It won’t work without changing the EU Treaty
The so-called gateway clause of the EU Treaty could also be used to switch to qualified majority voting, but everything else requires an ordinary amendment procedure, as regulated in Article 48. Under it, Parliament , as well as each Member State and the European Commission, may submit draft amendments to the Treaties to the Council. They may, as it is expressly stated, “aim to increase or diminish the competences conferred on the Union by the Treaties”.
If the European Council, i.e. the Heads of State and Government, decide by simple majority, a convention with representatives of the European institutions, Member States and national parliaments will be convened to discuss the changes . They must be decided unanimously by the Member States and then ratified. This requires referendums in several countries.
The European Parliament intends to initiate the convening of a convention in June, with a legislative report from the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, which will be voted on in plenary. Pro-European forces are counting on the French presidency to convince enough countries of the need for reform – and at the meeting of heads of government on 23/24. a decision will be made in June.
Macron announced that he would clarify the requirements in the coming weeks and organize everyone’s approval. “You have to know where you want to hang out when you start a convention,” he said. And he added: “I hope that from the June European Council, we will talk about it boldly and with the necessary freedom.” Of course, he left open the question of whether a decision should then be made.