13. October 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner keeps up her demand for one seat one vote for each commissioner

13.10.2003

"The coordinator role is to stay with the foreign ministers"

Luxembourg, 13 October 2003 - Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner repeated in Luxembourg today that she did not agree with the Convention’s proposal on the future composition of the EU Commission. "For us it is important that each Member State has full access to all the Union’s bodies and hence also to the Commission. Each Member State must have a commissioner who is entitled to vote. If the commissioners no longer have equal rights, the principle of collegiality will no longer work and European equality will be undermined. The second-class commissioners at least will lose their interest in representing the interests of Europe as a whole, which, however, is their principal task. The Commission itself shares this view, and has clearly pointed out the problems involved in the Convention's proposal in its response to the questionnaire," Ferrero-Waldner said.

In the opinion of the Austrian Foreign Minister, an enlarged Commission can only function if "organised accordingly". For this reason we requested in Rome that the Commission should take these considerations further and think about what a balanced model for the distribution of these portfolios should look like while at the same time providing scope for the necessary flexibility. We are now waiting for the Commission to present this proposal," Ferrero-Waldner stated.

As regards the rotation of the EU Presidency, Ferrero-Waldner expressed her concern in several respects after the latest discussion of the issue in Rome: "First, we are becoming aware that our time schedule is very tight; second, it is not a satisfactory procedure if numerous delegations propose their models and than there is no opportunity to discuss them in a common forum. In my opinion a working group would provide a good forum for dealing with this issue, and for this reason I will again propose today that the handling of this issue be assigned to a working group. Third, I am open to the proposal and ready to convince myself of the advantages of a team presidency, provided that certain principles are observed: These are: equality of all Member States, practicability, continuity, cohesion and above all the identification of the populations of the different Member States with the Presidency."

In this context the Austrian Foreign Minister advocated in Luxembourg that the "present system should only be abandoned once a better alternative has been found." Moreover, Ferrero-Waldner pleaded for "economical changes" and said it would be conceivable to maintain the current rotating system at the political level while introducing a team presidency at the working level. "One thing is clear to me, and this is that coordination by the President of the European Council is out of the question. That would be an infringement of Europe’s institutional equilibrium which I will not accept! My opinion, like that of other countries, is that the coordination role must stay with the foreign ministers in the future. Furthermore, the institutional system must be conceived as a system in overall equilibrium. The Convention has submitted something of a piecemeal draft, and it has simply failed to consider whether it makes sense if the chairs of the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the Eurogroup and the Council of External Affairs all have completely different terms in office, to cite only one example," the Foreign Minister said.