Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis Chairman of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs Lithuania in the EU – The Coming Constitution in the Context of the Enlargement
Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis
Chairman of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs
Lithuania in the EU – The Coming Constitution
in the Context of the Enlargement
A very interesting experiment has entered its final stage today. It was an experiment with a dream of courageous people. Someone had a dream to carry out a project to reunify Europe. It was launched by courageous Europeans like you, young leaders. It was carried out throughout Europe including Lithuania – a courageous country, not afraid of innovations. One of its aims was to bring more of Lithuania into Europe and to bring more Europe into Lithuania and to make the enlarged Europe more European. I have long been waiting for this day to come. Now that the European Commission has reported about Lithuania’s successful finish and good results of its preparation this day is very close indeed. There is longer enlargement. It’s reunification. And it’s the task for you, young European socialists, to make sure that this process is irreversible and the principles of democratic socialism enshrined in Europe become the example for other regions of the world. Now, it’s your chance, young socialists, to create a one-voice Europe united in diversity.
I am addressing this conference as a witness and a participant. I have gone all the way from Siberian Gulags to Athens. I had a good fortune to take part in drafting the Act of March 11 and the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania of 1992 and this July I had a privilege to put my signature on the EU Constitutional treaty drawn up by the Convention.
Some two years ago I became the Chairman of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs, it was then that one of the most significant periods of relationship between Lithuania and the EU was entering into the final stages. Lithuania was about to complete its negotiations on the EU membership, the country signed the EU Accession Treaty and held a successful referendum on joining the European Union. It also participated in the work of the Convention that debated on the future of Europe.
The completion of the talks on the EU membership in December 2002, signing the Accession Treaty in April 2003, the completion of the work of the Convention in July 2003, the start of the Intergovernmental Conference in October 2003 and becoming a fully-fledged EU member from May 2004 are all important events in my personal life and the life of my country.
I was spellbound when Lithuania re-established its independence a decade ago. And today I am delighted that it is taking a very active part in shaping the new Europe.
I strongly believe that it cannot be otherwise. Lithuanians have always been active. Enthusiasm has always been typical to our character.
One of the most recent proofs of that is the referendum on our membership in the EU. Lithuanians turned to be the most active supporters of the EU unification project. As many as 57 percent of the people in the referendum were in favour of our EU membership. That is the best result among the ten acceding members of the Union.
Lithuania was equally active throughout the entire Convention on the Future of Europe. Lithuanian representatives submitted 42 original amendments to the EU Constitutional treaty and expressed support to several dozen of other amendments offered by other members of the Convention. The Convention’s Presidium took into account about one fourth of our tabled amendments.
I can say that we, an active nation, need an active European Union. Our aim is a strong, peaceful, efficient and active Europe and we are ready to shape such a Europe.
Today we have an opportunity to actively implement our sovereignty. We all understand that if Europe is inactive, if we ourselves are not involved, we will stay in the periphery and Europe will be left without effective and genuine enlargement. We have to understand that the enlargement of Europe opens new possibilities to our region. We have to make a good use of them.
It is only now when the initiative of a Wider Europe and the EU Eastern Dimension become very important. The way of taking advantage of the opening co-operation and economic growth perspectives will determine not only our neighbourhood but also the welfare of all Europe and especially the one of our region.
Today like a hundred years ago, Europe needs a spring. The older Europe needs activity. The EU receives such new impetus from Eastern and Central Europe.
As a member of the Convention I have to say that the draft Treaty of the Constitution for Europe drafted by the Convention is intended exactly for the type of active Europe:
The EU, which has finally acquired its legal personality, will undoubtedly be more active. It will be able to enter into international agreements on its own behalf. Having joined the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU will become an active player in protecting and promoting human rights far beyond its borders.
A new post of the EU foreign minister is likely to help Europe to create more ambitious and more active common foreign and security policy. Lithuania will support the common efforts to make Europe a serious player on the international arena.
The fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is included in the EU Constitution and a million EU citizens will have the right to address the Commission with a proposal on a legal act, opens up vast possibilities to the EU citizens to protect their rights and to take an active part in shaping the EU politics. These changes are necessary. They are inevitable so that the EU becomes the Union of citizens not only the Union of states. The Union of involved citizens.
The EU with a right to veto is a dormant (sleeping) Union. Europe needs less unanimity and more qualified or “super–qualified” majority. The extension of qualified majority voting will be another step forward towards an active Union.
The system of double qualified majority proposed by the Convention, in my opinion, is more advantageous than the principle set out in the Treaty of Nice. That would enable a more efficient decision-making. An active Union, which we are creating together, needs that. That would encourage the states to look for compromise and agreement as paradoxically it may sound.
The engagement of national parliaments into the process of adoption of the EU legal acts will increase the “amount” of transparency, democracy, legitimacy and activity in the EU. We will become Europeans in our own home. It will be difficult to say “we are here and they are there – in Brussels”.
An active Union needs an active European Parliament. The fact that the co-decision procedure will become a “norm” – is a step towards a proactive Union.
An active, effective and strong EU is hard to imagine without the strengthened co-operation in the spheres of domestic affairs, justice and defence as well as co-ordination of economic and social policies of the member states.
The introduction of all these changes comprises an outstanding achievement by the Convention. Lithuania, as well as the whole of Europe, regards this as a matter of importance. It is only by pursuing this course that the enlarged EU can operate successfully and effectively.
However, I would like to say that the Convention itself is a great European achievement, moreover that it stems from the EU enlargement itself.
The list of Convention achievements is more than just reforms. The ambitious list of EU objectives should be considered. The Draft Constitutional Treaty declares that the EU must seek social justice, full employment, social progress and social market economy. It is in these areas that Europe should be the one to set an example to other regions of the world. This is a mission for an active Europe.
The Constitutional Treaty is explicit about the principle of solidarity among the States, especially as regards financial solidarity. For example, this principle is to be found within the sphere of Justice and Home Affairs. For Lithuania, a country going to safeguard one fifth of the EU eastern border, this is a crucial point.
In essence, Lithuania accepts the Draft of the EU Constitutional Treaty. It reflects the majority of the principles set forth in our Parliamentary and Governmental Resolutions on the future of the EU. The Constitution solidifies the principles of solidarity and equality among the States, expands the application of the Community method, simplifies legal instruments and procedures as well as consolidates the EU framework legislation.
The Draft of the European Constitutional Treaty submitted to the Intergovernmental Conference is an outcome of a tough compromise. This draft can certainly be improved, yet it is as easy to spoil it. Therefore the position adopted by the Lithuanian Government in the IGC is a moderate one. And to my mind, it is right. We must protect the compromise of the Convention, and only seek for the clarification of certain limited points.
In the IGC, Lithuania attaches the utmost importance to the following issues:
It is first of all the Presidency in the Councils formations. The principle of equal rotation cannot be compromised. On the home straight, the Lithuanian delegation at the Convention made a considerable effort to have this principle included in the Draft Treaty. We are glad that it is also supported by the vast majority of the governments of the Member State and the acceding countries. The concept of team presidency, currently debated in the IGC, is a good way to organise Council Presidency in an enlarged Union while keeping the principle of state equality intact. Italy’s proposal on group presidency, when the Member States in the group preside over the Councils and their preparatory bodies on equal grounds, is therefore acceptable.
Secondly, it is the composition of the European Commission. It must be sought that every Member State of the European Union has a member of the European Commission enjoying equal rights. It is true, of course, that the compromise achieved in the Convention concerning the composition of the new Commission based on the principle of equal rotation is negotiable as well. Both of the parties put forward strong arguments. Here are some of them:
Countries in favour of the principle “One State – one Commissioner with equal rights” claim:
All States should enjoy equal standing while taking part in the activities of all institutions, including the Commission.
A Commissioner is a link between the Commission and Commissioner’s country, therefore each country must have a Commissioner with equal voting rights.
The success of the performance of an organisation depends upon good internal division of tasks and characteristics of its leader rather than upon its size.
Countries, which support the proposal of the Convention, contend that:
Commissioners do not represent the Member States.
Even if the “one state – one Commissioner with equal rights” principle is going to be implemented, the equality of Commissioners can still be only declarative.
Besides, until 2009 all Member States will have one Commissioner each. Therefore, new countries should not be afraid of not having their own commissioner now, at the very start of their membership. It’s too early to worry, they say. Let’s wait and see how it works.
The Intergovernmental Conference will have to reach a compromise. Our main goal, however, is an active and effective Commission.
Thirdly, the transparency of the EU legislative process. During the first IGC meeting in Rome, the ministers made a preliminary decision rejecting an idea of setting up the Legislative Council that would ensure that the adoption of legislation in the EU is more open and transparent. Yet the ongoing discussions around the IGC show that the Governments will still need to come back to this question. In Lithuania, there exists quite a variety of opinion on the issue. I personally am in favour of the establishment of the Legislative Council as a means of preventing the fragmentation of the EU legislative process.
Fourthly, presidency over the European Council. In September of this year the Seimas passed a resolution calling on the Government of Lithuania, in the IGC, to support the retention of the principle of the rotating Presidency of the European Council as well as “rotating capital cities”. Rotating presidency of one or another nature provides a good opportunity for making the Member States more active. It electrifies, if you wish, the entire state, its administration and its population, which suddenly find themselves in the focus, at the heart of the entire Union.
Fifthly, the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Lithuania’s objective is to see the Minister of Foreign Affairs as a full member of the Commission responsible for external relations. At the same time, the Minister carries out the functions in the area of the Common Foreign and Security Policy on the basis of the European Council mandate to head the Foreign Affairs Council. We believe that the system of equal rotation should apply to the Union Foreign Minister as it does to all the Commissioners.
Major responsibility for the process and results of the Intergovernmental Conference rests with the Governments of the Member States. Nevertheless, the Parliaments should remain alert and actively monitor the work of the IGC. The Lithuanian Seimas will eventually have to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, as amended by the Governments. I therefore agree with the approach that the quality of the IGC decisions should remain more important than the finalisation of the Conference by the end of this year.
In my opinion, the IGC, with slight amendments, will approve the compromise achieved by the Convention.
This is a task for all of us. An enlarged and active Union needs a new Treaty. The end of the IGC should leave neither winners nor losers among the Member States. And Lithuania does understand that.
Sometimes we do not appreciate the importance of this Treaty to Lithuania and the whole of Europe. After all, in a few years the new Treaty will replace the Treaties presently in force. The Constitution will become the main document by which the enlarged EU will have to abide. This means that Lithuania and all Europe face another important task – to undertake an active public information campaign.
You, young socialists, are not fully satisfied with the text of the Constitution as drafted by the Convention. And that is right. I am not satisfied with it either. Europe needs federalism of a socialist nature. But remember there are also other ways of approaching federalism: both rightist and ultra-leftist. Let us not argue about definition but fight for essence, which can only be reached through complex compromises. This will need an ongoing discussions by socialists, constant tactical deliberations and strained polemic fight for the success of our ideas. In this context the compromise of the convention is the success for socialists. And now the most important task is not to allow the IGC to undermine this compromise. If anyone asked me whether we need to go back and revise the text, contrary to the official opinion of Lithuania, I would say no. Let us approve the one we have. You, young socialists, are in favour of the pan-European referendum for the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty. I support this idea. But in order to succeed we need a powerful information campaign throughout Europe which would reach out to everyone. Otherwise, the rightist populists and ultra radicals through the referendum may destroy the result of the Convention.
I urge you, young socialists, to go out and start the information campaign. Let us wish each other success and the best of luck.