Convention: the Liberal Democrat view

By ANDREW DUFF MEPLiberal DemocratTO be a member of the Convention is a wonderful job. Since February last year I and my fellow conventionnels have been deliberating on the present state of the European Union, analysing past mistakes and drafting proposals for the future constitution.

By ANDREW DUFF MEP

Liberal Democrat

TO be a member of the Convention is a wonderful job. Since February last year I and my fellow conventionnels have been deliberating on the present state of the European Union, analysing past mistakes and drafting proposals for the future constitution. The quality of the debate is impressive. What are our findings?

First, in the light of September 11, the Convention agreed on the overriding necessity to strengthen the capacity of the Union to act effectively at home and abroad. If Europe is to do more, it must do it better. Despite appearances to the contrary, the Iraq War has given an added impetus to the quest for a common foreign, security and defence policy.


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The British government equivocates about whether it wants to be involved in the European defence dimension or not. But it knows it cannot stop the emergence of a core group of politically willing, militarily capable and European minded states that will act as the motor of further integration. Resources are indeed a problem, but the only way the German Chancellor can persuade his electorate to pay more towards defence is on a European basis.

The second driving force behind the work of the Convention has been the need to simplify things. After all, people deserve to know how they are governed, by whom and from where. We have cut the number of decision-making procedures and streamlined the instruments. We are trying to write down in plain language the Union's values, objectives and competences, being clear about what the Union is for, and what it can and cannot do.

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The most controversial question facing the Convention, of course, is "who's in charge?". Here there is a tussle between those, like the UK government, who want more power for themselves at the level of the summit meetings and those, like me, who want more power for the institutions which articulate and protect the common interest of all member states, old and new, large and small.

The role of the Commission, as the chief executive body, is particularly important in this respect. We are also developing the role of the Court of Justice so that the constitutional and fundamental rights of citizens are fully protected from any abuse.

The European Parliament will emerge the big victor in this polite but serious struggle for power. The strengthening of post-national democracy will save Europe in the new century from the sorrow and the pity of the old. My guess is that, before the summer, the Convention will succeed in drafting a constitution that makes Europe more united - and a better place to live.

Andrew Duff leads the European Liberals in the Convention.

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