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Old Enmities As Leaders Decide A Future Plan For Europe

  • June 22nd, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

pottering-newser-june-07.jpgGovernment leaders discussing deep changes in the organisation of the European Union, at Brussels, were told (21.6.07) that the directly elected European Parliament t wanted the changes made, and would insist on its legal right to review any final decision made.

The Parliament’s President, Hans-Gert Pottering (picture), also criticised statements made by the Polish Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has argued against some of the changes proposed and threatened a veto by his government on the whole process.

SUPPORT FOR CHANGE

Dr Pottering said he had told the heads of government at their summit that the Parliament would support the so-called reform treaty of Europe, if it did not reduce standards of democracy, transparency and human rights – and he had said that failure to make an agreement because of blocking by Poland would have many adverse consequences.

“My optimism has paled recently but I have not abandoned all hope”, he told a media conference.

He said bocking would prevent expansion of the European Union , which would keep out the Ukraine, where Poland had special interests.

The Polish government had received support from the European Union when it got intro difficulty with Russia over trade, and the same kind of solidarity was expected when the EU needed to reach an agreement on its future.

“Solidarity is not a one-way street,” he said.

He said the public in Poland supported membership of the European Union and its government should pull into line with the majority.

GIBE AIMED AT GERMANS

The parliamentary president was most critical when asked about comments by the Polish Prime Minister that he wanted to preserve Poland’s voting strength under the European system, to make up for the loss of many war dead.

Dr Pottering said there had been many objections to that comment in Germany, and he considered it “very painful and objectionable” to hear such comment in the 21st Century.

“As a European and a German it does hurt me and I feel it is not helpful in the context of the 21st century”, he said.

Mr Kaczynski has become the main obstacle to a settlement of a new treaty which would enact many parts of the proposed European constitution — ratified by 18 governments before being blocked by its rejection in referendums in France and the Netherlands, in 2005.

He says he does not want the system of qualified majority voting contained in the scaled-down plan, because it would weaken Poland’s present position in the way the numbers are done.

DEMOCRATIC CHANGE, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Dr Pottering said the European Parliament had called on the heads of government to ensure that the “essence and substance” of the former draft constitution should be kept.

A statement from the Parliament said the ‘crucial results” of the convention that drew it up should not be “watered down” in a new treaty.

It strongly supported parts that would bring in qualified majority voting , replacing the present consensus system, and more scrutiny of EU business by the national parliaments of member countries.

It believed definitions of citizens’ rights should be made enforceable by law.

Hans-Gerd Pottering said the European Union needed to be able to expand but could not take in new member countries, after a forthcoming application by Croatia, unless major changes in the rules went through.

He indicated that decisions taken to weaken the “constitution” plan could be rejected, saying any outcome would have to be scrutinised by the European Parliament, and the parliament would have to be fully involved at each stage in the preparation of any final treaty.

Asked if failure to reach agreement at the Brussels summit would mean that the European Union would divide into different groups of states, with separate forms of agreement, (“slow speed” unification versus “fast speed”), he said instead it would “have to look at new forms of co-operation and integration.”

Picture: Hans-Gerd Pottering media conference, 21.6.07

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