News Release, PN No. 22, 2006-07
Committee Office, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson 020 7219 1589
9 October 2007
PUBLICATION OF REPORT ON THE EUROPEAN UNION INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE
Concern has been expressed by the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons at the âËsecretive' way in which the European Reform Treaty appears to have been developed. No national parliament has been allowed time to carry out proper scrutiny, says the European Scrutiny Committee in its report into âThe European Union Intergovernmental Conference.â?
For most countries in the EU the new proposals in the former Treaty for A Constitution For Europe, apart from the 8 Articles on symbols remain in the Reform treaty. Though the UK has retained the veto in some areas, opt-in arrangements in others, and protocols in the area of the Charter of Fundamental Rights the ESC express concern that the UK will not be able to sustain its âËred Lines' in crucial national policy areas.
The report comes one week before the next informal meeting of the heads of state and governments of the EU member states on 18th October. The EU Presidency aims to conclude discussions on the EU Reform Treaty with a view to a formal agreement at the December European Council.
Today's report examines the preparations for the IGC, the European Commission's opinion on the matter and the Government's White Paper response to the IGC. The report also examines the UK Government's four pre-conditions for agreement on the new treaty, known as the constitutionally-focused 'Red Lines'. The Committee focuses, in particular, on the impact of the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Committee draws attention to the secret nature of the drafting process conducted by the Presidency, noting that the text of the IGC Mandate was first seen by those representing the UK only 48 hours before the June European Council at which agreement was reached.
The Committee also questions the Government over the effectiveness of the UK's Protocol on the Treaty's Charter and whether the âËopt-in' arrangements will also allow the UK to opt-out.
The Committee also considers that it would raise a serious difficulty of a constitutional order if the Reform Treaty were to impose legal duties on the UK Parliament âËto contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union'. The Committee points out that national parliaments, unlike the European Parliament, are not creations of Treaties and their rights are not dependent on them. In the Committee's view, the imposition of such a legal duty on the Parliament of the UK country is objectionable as a matter of principle and must be resisted.
The Committee's Chairman,
Michael Connarty MP, said: âThe European Council claims it want to provide EU citizens with âËfull and comprehensive information' during the IGC. However, the essentially secret drafting process conducted by the Presidency, combined with texts produced at the last moment before pressing for agreement, could not have been better designed to marginalise the role of national parliaments.â?
In order to clarify its concerns, the Committee has included in its report a table showing where exactly the provisions of the original Constitutional Treaty are now to be found in the Reform Treaty.
Note for Editors
The European Scrutiny Committee reports to the House on the legal and political importance of each EU document and recommends EU documents for debate. Such debates take place either in a European Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House. The Committee normally reports weekly on a range of documents when the House is sitting.
The Committee has 16 Members, as follows: Michael Connarty MP (Chairman), Labour, Mr David S Borrow MP, Labour, Mr William Cash MP, Conservative, Mr James Clappison MP, Conservative, Ms Katy Clark MP, Labour, Mr Wayne David MP, Labour, Jim Dobbin MP, Labour/Co-op, Nia Griffith MP, Labour, Mr Greg Hands MP, Conservative, Mr David Heathcoat-Amory MP, Conservative, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Labour, Mr Lindsay Hoyle MP, Labour, Mr Bob Laxton MP, Labour, Angus Robertson MP, SNP, Mr Anthony Steen MP, Conservative, Richard Younger Ross MP, Lib Dem
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