Ferrero-Waldner in favour of improvements to EU Convention's draft constitution
"We want to close gaps, not open cans of worms"
Brussels, 29 September 2003 - At the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels today, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner thanked the Italian EU Presidency for listening carefully to the discussions in Riva del Garda and adding to the list of points to be dealt with at the Intergovernmental Conference. "This is a good start. If we want to bring the Intergovernmental Conference to a swift and efficient conclusion we need rules which are acceptable to everybody. Nevertheless, I think we ought to make still further improvements", said Ferrero-Waldner.
The Foreign Minister emphasized that all the participants at last week's meeting of nineteen EU states to discuss the Intergovernmental Conference on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York had agreed that every state must have the right to have questions it considers essential dealt with by the Intergovernmental Conference. "I use the word "essential" deliberately here; this does not mean that we should discuss everything again from scratch", Ferrero-Waldner continued.
In Ferrero-Waldner's view, this right to the treatment of essential questions was all the more important given that the Presidium of the Convention had practised "a very selective kind of listening" in formulating its final compromise, so that a series of states - including Austria - felt that their views had not been sufficiently taken into account. "It would not be good for the Intergovernmental Conference if the same thing happened again. The list of issues proposed today by the Presidency does make far greater allowance for this idea than it did in Riva. For example, the question of the composition of the Commission has already been included on the list", said the Foreign Minister.
Nevertheless, in Ferrero-Waldner's opinion the list is not yet quite complete. Particularly conspicuous by their absence, according to the Foreign Minister, are the open questions relating to the European Council and its President. "I am still not convinced that the proposed construction brings us any added value. If we are supposed to get to like the idea, then we at least have to know exactly what we are letting ourselves in for. It makes no sense to keep putting off these issues, making constant conflict inevitable from the very start. A constitution has to make it absolutely clear what role is to be played by the European Council and its President - especially in relation to the Commission, to the other Council formations and to the EU Foreign Minister. Another thing we agreed upon at the meeting in New York is that the principles of equality of all Member States, institutional balance and the precedence of the Community method are not to be tampered with", Ferrero-Waldner went on.
According to the Foreign Minister, it would also be impossible to avoid discussing one or two aspects covered by Part III of the Draft Constitution - and by this she did not only mean the CSDP. "Everyone knows that the Convention only addressed a few of the points covered in Part III and that there are several policy areas that were not dealt with at all. Now we have to ensure that everything is balanced. What we need for the Intergovernmental Conference is not only a road map, but also - as at previous Conferences - a clear mandate in terms of both content and working methods", stated the Foreign Minister.
As far as the working methods were concerned, Ferrero-Waldner said she was still of the opinion that it would be a good idea to set up a working group. "I welcome the fact that the Presidency is now bringing in a group of legal experts, but surely that alone is not enough. You can't solve difficult political questions by questionnaire. I am perfectly willing to fill in questionnaires, but the responses can only be evaluated collectively in a multilateral process. It will not suffice for the Presidency to discuss selected points with selected states. That is why I have proposed today that we set up a genuine working group. It could serve us very well indeed", Ferrero-Waldner concluded.