Bashir Khanbhai: May 15 2003
THE Convention drafting a European Constitution is due to report in the next few weeks. The document promises to be a devastating indictment of the federalist dream, which will take precedent over all the lawmaking bodies of the member states of the EU.
THE Convention drafting a European Constitution is due to report in the next few weeks. The document promises to be a devastating indictment of the federalist dream, which will take precedent over all the lawmaking bodies of the member states of the EU. Our sovereignty and very independence are threatened – and the British government seems totally indifferent.
While France, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Austria will allow their people to decide in a referendum whether to ratify the document, the British will have no say. The Government will force it through Parliament and the most fundamental change for centuries in the way we are governed will be imposed on us. While there is frustration among the public at the huge democratic gap throughout the European Union – my postbag reflects this every day – the proposed constitution will make matters much worse.
The European Council of Heads of Member States at Laeken in December 2001, set up the Convention on the Future of the European Union to initiate and sustain public debate on the future of Europe. Its task is to suggest a planned reform of the European Union institutions to prepare for EU enlargement from its current 15 to 25 Member States in June 2004.
Chaired by former French President, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the Convention comprises 105 representatives, including 16 members of the European Parliament, members of parliaments from accession countries and two delegates and one government minister from each of the 28 European nations, including 3 countries likely to join in 2007. The Convention seeks public consultation and it can be accessed on the internet (www.europa.eu.int/futurum). What is the outcome so far?
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1. The EU should be a single legal entity incorporating all EU institutions and offering Europeans EU "citizenship" as complimentary to national citizenship allowing them to live, work and vote in local government elections anywhere in the EU.
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2. Create a position of "President of the EU Council" - elected by the EU Heads of State and a "President of the European Commission" elected by the European Parliament.
3. Create a Constitution for the EU that would incorporate all existing Treaties and that would allow Member States to have the right to withdraw from the EU.
It is unacceptable if the single legal identity offers the elected President of the Council supranational power to overwhelm the sovereignty of national governments. Foreign & defence policy, taxation and home affairs must remain firmly in the control of our own Parliament. Furthermore, we should retain our seat at the UN Security Council and our individual membership of NATO.
However, I believe it is the democratically elected European Parliament, not the Commission, which must initiate, draft and approve legislation. The Commission must relinquish its political powers and act as a civil service, subservient to the European Parliament and EU citizens.
It is member states that must comply with the rules of a single, free, open and competitive internal market for goods, labour and services, including financial services. And it is national parliaments that must have more powers to scrutinise EU institutions.
Bashir Khanbhai is a Conservative Euro MEP for the East of England.