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Convention on the Future of Europe

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The Convention on the Future of Europe (officially the European Convention), was a body established by the European Council in December 2001 as a result of the Laeken Declaration. Its purpose was to produce a draft constitution for the European Union

Gisela Stuart was the British representative at the Convention.


"I had a meeting with the Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer on this subject. She told me the Union needs and independent stream of revenue and it is impossible to have 25 countries voting through their own resources. She suggested a dedicated tax, which would go automatically to the European Union. I told her that i would be happy to consider such a tax provided it was shown on people pay slips. She thought this was a joke in rather bad taste."

"In all the proceedings of the presidium, there was an unspoken assumption that the acquis comminautaire - i.e. everything that had been given to the Union as a power or competence - was untouchable. The debate focused solely on where we could do more at European Union level. Any representative who took issue with the fundamental goal of deeper integration was sidelined. Government representatives were accused of being obstructive because they protected national interests. And yet the concerted efforts by the Commission and the European Parliament to enhance their influence was not seen as power grabbing, but being good europeans"

"The proceedings were guided by a Presidium consisting of thirteen Convention members. The Convention had no formal legal status to make binding decisions on behalf of the institutions represented by its members. The President and Vice Presidents only represented themselves. The Commission pursued its own interest. MEPs spoke for the institution of the European Parliament, not the people who elected them. "The Presidium was the drafting body, deciding which working groups' recommendations should be accepted and which should be ignored. Laeken had posed a number of questions but rather than answering these questions, after six months of debate, the Presidium presented the Convention members with a skeleton Constitution. Without debate it was simply accepted."

"It was very difficult to see how decisions were made. Presidium members would meet in a small room in the Justus Lipsius Building, attendance was limited to thirteen, plus the Secretary General Sir John Kerr, his deputy and the press officer. After six months the Presidium meetings became more frequent and lengthier. Morning session would be followed by private lunches on the top floor. "On several occasions we would retreat to the Val Duchess - a small palace used by the Belgian foreign minister. It was in one of the dinners at Val Duchess that the skeleton of the draft Constitution was given to members of the presidium in sealed brown envelopes the weekend before the public presentation. Who drafted the skeleton and when is still unclear to me, but i gather much of the work was done by Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Sir John Kerr over the summer. "There was little time for discussion or changes."

"In the final weeks meetings became open ended, some lasting into the early hours. d'Estaing, Giuliano Amato and Jean-Luc Dehaene were an extemely effective trio The secretariat was very skillful. The agenda issued beforehand was simply indicative and the sheer mass of paper meant that large parts of the text passed through without detailed discussions. It was only in the final months that translations were provided and we were allowed legal advisors. It was not unusual for texts to arrive late and only in French. The president expressed irritation at my inability to conduct legal negotiations in French. Some members of the secretariat showed particular irritation with my insistence that documents be produced in English. Verbal reassurances were given to those who felt uneasy about approving legal document they couldnt read. The draft was discarded when some of us spotted references to NATO had mysteriously disappeared. Sometimes wordings would be agreed in Presidium but not translated into official texts. At other times significant new provisions such as the 'Passerelle clause' would be introduced very late without much discussion"

"The Convention brought together a self-selected group of the European political elite, many of whom have their eyes on a career at European level, which is dependent on more and more integration. Not once in the 16 months I spent on the Convention did representatives question whether deeper integration is what the people of Europe want, whether it serves their best interests or whether it provides the best basis for a sustainable structure for an expanding Union."


Fabian Society - Fabian Ideas Pamphlet 609 'The Making of Europe's Constitution' by Gisela Stuart.

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