Luxemburg, 13. October 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner: "EU Foreign Minister should be a member of the Commission"

13.10.2003

President of the European Council should preside and coordinate, not dictate the programme

Luxembourg, 13 October 2003 - In the opinion of the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the future EU Foreign Minister should be Vice-President, and hence a full member, of the European Commission. The function should thus combine the roles of the present Commissioner for External Relations and the present High Representative for the CFSP. "He or she should therefore also have full voting rights in the Commission, including voting on non-foreign policy issues. Otherwise the Foreign Minister would not be able to fulfil his or her mandate, namely to ensure the coordination and coherence of EU foreign policy", stated Ferrero-Waldner.

As the wearer of two hats, the EU Foreign Minister must also enjoy the confidence of the European institutions in carrying out both his or her functions. "If the European Parliament delivers a vote of no confidence, the Foreign Minister should be forced to resign in the same way as the other members of the Commission. The same should apply if the President of the Commission demands the Foreign Minister's resignation. In this case, however, the President of the Commission should be obliged to consult the European Council. Moreover, the regulation that the European Council can remove the EU Foreign Minister from office with a qualified majority and the assent of the President of the Commission should be retained", continued the Foreign Minister.

Regarding the division of responsibilities between the future EU Foreign Minister and the President of the European Council, Ferrero-Waldner said that the EU should be "represented externally by the EU Foreign Minister alone". "The President of the European Council should only represent the Union at summit meetings, whereby here too the powers of the President of the Commission would also have to be taken into account. Above all, the President of the Council should not indulge in excessive travel activity", Ferrero-Waldner said.

Once again Ferrero-Waldner pointed out that Austria had always been sceptical about the Convention's proposals regarding the future President of the European Council, and said she was still not convinced that this function would create any added value. "However, I acknowledge that a majority of the Member States wish to discuss this issue and would like to establish this function under any circumstances. I will only say this: if we are to get to like the idea at all, then certain criteria at least must be fulfilled: first of all, Austria finds it unacceptable that the European Council can take legally binding decisions that are not subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. And secondly, the competences of the President of the European Council must be clearly defined - especially vis-a-vis those of the President of the Commission, the EU Foreign Minister and the Presidents of the various formations of the Council of Ministers. The President of the European Council should preside and coordinate, but he or she should not dictate the programme", concluded Ferrero-Waldner.