21 January 2003 Address by Mr. Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis Member of the Convention On the institutional architecture of the EU
In its working document CONV 477/03 the Presidium of the Convention sets forth four principles guiding the reform of the EU institutions. The identified principles focus primarily on the effectiveness and durability of the institutions. However in order to improve the work of the EU institutions as a means of making them more acceptable to the EU citizens we should not lose sight of another fundamental principle of the EU that of equality of its member states. The Presidium document does not mention such Constitutional concepts as economic and social cohesion, solidarity and protection of common values either.
After the current EU enlargement takes place, the level of economic and social development of the old and new member states of the Union will vary. It is true that people believe in cohesion and solidarity, but if they dont see them put in practice they soon get tired of hearing high declarations devoid of their true meaning.
One of the goals of the exercise we are undertaking is to bring the Union closer to its citizens. The debate on the effectiveness of the EU institutions is primarily aimed at bridging this gap.
The balance in the institutional triangle of the Union is very important, more so ever for the acceding countries that have just concluded accession negotiations. We seek to join the democratic, transparent and efficient Union. Therefore any radical change in the existing institutional structure of the Union brings about mixed feelings.
As a representative Lithuania, one of the acceding countries, I would like to draw the Conventions attention to the following points.
As to the Council, I am in favour of maintaining the rotation of member states in running the EU presidency. Rotating presidency is a powerful expression of equality of the member states and brings the Union closer to its people. Equality should not be sacrificed for the sake of efficiency. There are other ways of solving the problem of efficiency and continuity. One of them worthwhile considering is team-presidencies. We should not try concentrating more power in Brussels. Such a concentration brings back sourer memories for a number of acceding countries. We still remember Moscow as the central meeting and decision-making place. Rotating presidency among the members states as a means of decentralization of power carries much more trust in individual member states and regions. Therefore, we would rather not give grounds for drawing undesirable parallels between the past and the future. In order to ensure continuity of the Council presidency I suggest following the example of the UN and NATO led by Secretaries General instead of full-time Presidents. The Secretary General could prepare meetings, conduct the work of the European Council and supervise the implementation of its decisions while the chairmanship of the European Council would remain with the heads of the member states. In this context, an option of having longer-tenure team-presidencies can be explored. I also am in favour of separating the legislative and executive formations of the Council and making the legislative process transparent.
As to the Commission, I support strengthening this institution keeping the proper balance with the other two. As to the size of the Commission, I favour the principle: one commissioner per member state. It should not be perceived as strengthening of the intergovernmentalist tendencies. Quite to the opposite, the common European goals could be better pursued by giving equal status to all member states in this collegiate community body and by better reflecting the characteristic features of individual members states. Easily recognizable commissioner working for the sake of the Union would help European citizens to associate themselves with somebody they well know. I support the idea of Commission President being elected by the European Parliament on a qualified majority basis and confirmed by the European Council by a qualified majority vote.
As to the Congress, I am in favour of the convention rather than annual congress of parliamentarians as a method of producing major Treaty amendments. The convention method carries wider representation, including civil society, NGOs, youth, interest groups, and as practice shows it is a very effective method. In this context the role of the President of the European Parliament can be enhanced by giving him the chairmanship over the convention which could meet in Strasbourg.
The innovative Franco - German proposal of a dual presidency in the EU raises more questions than gives answers. A large portion of the message seems to remain hidden between the lines of the text. In order to disperse the doubts as to the efficacy of the proposal, publication of an official translation of the text at least into English might be a good start. The next step would be a more thorough presentation of the proposal by its authors and a possible analysis of it by the Presidium of the Convention.
How does the proposal square with the issues raised in Laeken declaration setting the goal of increased democratic legitimacy and transparency of the present institutions? Today what we really need is simplified institutional architecture and more effective cohesion rather than a dispute over the two crowns of the EU.
I therefore support the proposal by the Finnish member of the Convention Mr. Kimmo Kiljunen that the debate on the institutional framework should continue within the framework of the Convention. I also agree with the German representative Prof. Juergen Meyer on the possible modification of the Franco - German proposal.
Hearing expert opinion on the possible ramifications that the Franco-German proposal may have on the institutional balance of the Union may be of special value. It therefore may be a good idea to ask one of the previous working groups of the Convention to present its views on the proposal before any decision on it is taken by the plenary.