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European Union at 50

  • March 27th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

berlin-declaration-cut2.jpg“Europe” at fifty has put on a strong and confident face, pointing out it has a material capability to take a global lead in the present-day search for opportunities and solutions.

From Lee Duffield in Berlin …

The 27 heads of governemnt attending the commemorative Berlin summit (24-25.3.07) negotiated some pressing contemporary differences, to set out intentions for the coming half-century.

CLIMATE CHANGE
The “Berlin Declaration” nominated climate change as a central environmental and economic problem.

It had been placed at the centre of the EU policy agenda at the previous summit, earlier this month (8-9.3.07), in Brussels, (see EUAustralia 11, 12.3.07).

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the current summit president, said then that action was needed to prevent a potential “human calamity”.

EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION

Dr Merkel took a political lead also in the review of plans for a European constitution, which made it into the final declaration, in these terms:

“We must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today … we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.”
The proposed constitutional treaty will reduce and consolidate currently complicated decision-making processes. For instance it is expected to end the present bi-annual rotation of presidencies of the European Council – the meetings of national Ministers including summits – considered no longer workable with the 27 member states.

More fundamentally it will consolidate the successive treaties from which European law is derived, starting with the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

It wil also grant more power to the directly-elected European Parliament which, although unable to propose legislation, has been taking on increasing authority as a house of consultation, review and approval.

The constitutional proposal has been in abeyance since it was defeated in referenda in France and the Netherlands, in 2005, victim of anxiety about too much expansion of the EU, too fast, too many new member states, and too many new citizens coming in.

The new version is less complicated but also has met with political resistance, e.g. in the Czech Republic and Poland, where it has been seen as reducing the say of already less powerful member states. There iis, as well, traditional Euro-resistance in the United Kingdom.

COMPROMISES

European leaders told a closing media conference at Berlin that all heads of state and heads of government had signed-on to implement the constitution; at least twenty countries had completed public consultations or legislation needed to ratify it.

Dr Merkel said compromises had been reached with governments that had been expressing opposition, including Poland, though there would need to be more negotiations betfore the intended 2009 deadline for the treaty.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

She can expect support from the European Parliament.

Its President, Hans-Gert Poettering, said the agreement needed to be made without delay:

“The declaration … means ratification by June 2009; we are not just signifying that we are going to have a proposal on the table,” he said.

As for negotiations, “compromise” was the name of the game:

“If you don’t have confidence and comradely relations you can’t make progress.

“Passion and patience are both necessary for Europe.

“It’s only together that we are going to be able to achieve results,” he said.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION

There was similar support for expansion from the executive side, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, predicting the EU would claim a growing, important place in international affairs.

He said it had achieved peace, liberty and prosperity, beyond the most optimistic dreams of the original six signatories to the common market agreement in 1957; and was growing in stature.

“Size matters in today’s world,” he said in a commemorative address.

At the same time, he said Europe would not want to impose its values on the rest of the world.

Reference: To read the Berlin Declaration, visit the European Council website (via www.Europa.eu), on http://www.eu2007.de/en/About_the_EU/Constitutional_Treaty/BerlinerErklaerung.html
Picture: Left to right, Barroso, Merkel and Poettering show off commemorative souvenirs.

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