The European Union in the World Europakommisjonens delegasjon til Norge og Island


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Dr. Joachim Wuermeling, MEP

Schuman Lecture 2002

6 May 2002

University of Oslo

The Constitutional future of Europe

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity given to me to speak to you about the role of Europe in the world and the new shape of Europe in the future.

Coming to Oslo is something special to me. Although Norway is not a member of the EU it is a deeply European country. The Norwegians share the same values we do. I might also feel attached to Norway because I am a Bavarian. We are self-confident (and have good reason to be so); we keep our traditions and regional identity. We are at the same time modern and open-minded. And we do not think Europe should do everything. But we are convinced that only a strong community such as the European Union can guarantee the existence of our nation states and the regions we live in. FJS stated: "Bavaria is our home (Heimat), Germany our country (Vaterland), Europe is our future". This is the essence of our attitude. I think the same could apply to Norway.

Unlike Mr. Brok, my activities concentrate less on foreign policy issues than on constitutional affairs. Consequently I will put more emphasis on the future shape of Europe from an internal perspective. Nevertheless, I will focus on some foreign policy issues since Norway has great traditions and experience in international relations.

The future of Europe

I would like to make some remarks on the following issues

  • The need for reform of the EU

  • The work of the Convention on the future of Europe

  • The new role of Europe in a globalise world

Need to reform

We are about to reshape Europe.
The European Union faces 3 major new challenges: And these challenges call for reform:


The unification of Europe is the great European success story of the second half of the 20th century. After two world wars, it has, alongside the Atlantic Alliance, brought peace and stability and improved social welfare to all its western member countries. The attraction of the idea of a united Europe was decisive in helping to end the conflict between East and West, and the division of Germany and Europe. Now we have the chance to open up a new chapter with the enlargement to the east.

An enlarged EU will consist of up to 30 countries. This puts into question the whole institutional framework :

We have to make majority voting a rule;
We cannot no longer accept vetoes;
We have to look for new checks and balances, more  democracy and transparency;

But a larger EU also brings about a much wider heterogeneity. Economy, social structure, tradition and culture differences will be much broader in the candidate countries than was the case among the original six Member States. Therefore legislation has to respect this wider context. The EU has to have

Be more flexible ;
Apply the subsidiarity principle better;
Concentrate on core competences.


EU in the past has looked inside Europe.

Internal market
Structural Policy
Environment, social security matters

In the last two decades, since 1989, international relations are no longer determined by the cold war.

Foreign affairs in the traditional sense have turned into a complex structure of international relations. Bilateralism has been largely replaced by multilateralism, e.g. :

Economic field: WTO and G8

Environment: Kyoto-Process

Crisis management: multinational Conferences

Middle East new formula: quad (US, EU, Russia, UN)

In all these bodies Europe can only act with success, if it defends its interests with one voice.

To ensure this substantial reforms are needed.

3. Concentration on Key Tasks

There is a large support for European Integration in the public. But there is also heavy criticism about centralism, inefficiency and bureaucracy. This criticism is not always justified. But it is not completely unfounded either.

Up to now, the process of European unification has often taken place according to the principle of integration wherever possible. This approach has now reached the limit of what it can achieve. The time has now come in which the relationship between unity and diversity must be based on a distribution of responsibilities. The Union must therefore concentrate on key tasks at European level and strengthen its ability to act.

Europe will, even in the future, consist of nation states, and these must retain the right to decide what tasks are to be carried out at European or national level. The attachment to one's own nation which is rooted in Europe's history is not something that can simply be dispensed with.

The Convention on the future of Europe

1.   Method

Several previous attempts to meet the challenges were only partly successful. The Treaty of Nice fell short of real changes and brought about only small effects:


diplomatic method
intergovernmental conference
mandates of capitals

little “marge de manoeuvre

But what is needed “think big” in terms of changes. The European Parliament demanded a parliamentary body instead of diplomatic Conference according to the example of the Charter, and the EU Council agreed.

2. Agenda

  • 50 questions: institutional, political, competences

  • whole range decision

  • Laeken declaration. Did not ask the Convention for a specific document:

  • Resolution

  • Options

  • Text

  • For the intergovernmental conference 2004

  • Consists of 105 members (and their respective substitutes)

  • 16 EP

  • 54 nat. Parliaments (EU + Member States)

  • 27 Gov.

  • COM, Council of regions…

Can be a reshape of Europe

Can be a historic conference at the beginning of 21 century

3. Firstexperiences

1st: surprising consensus emerged on objective work on a proposal for a constitutional Treaty

Can make out a mainstream, no extremes (except Malta)

2nd: Very constructive approach

Everybody seems to make a better Europe in his sense

3rd: High level of discussion

No surprise/high-ranking: 8 prime ministers and former                          

                                                                                20 ministers

                                                                                4 Com.

Conference starts with high ambitions

First discussion on “missions and comp.”

Overall consensus

More comp. in external relations (come back later)

Critical about current way of implementing the existing competences;

Better application of subsidiarity;

But not to touch the heart of the acquis

My personal view:

There are also a number of areas in which either European legislation has gone too far or where it is simply better to confine the tasks to the national, regional or even local level. Striking examples for this are education policy, employment policy or the harmonisation of law. Differences in Europe alone as such do not automatically justify harmonisation but are often the result of different local needs and traditions. Europe's diversity is one of the big advantages we have. Let's experience this richness instead of levelling it down!

"Lean on Europe" This catchword might describe what the Convention would do. Europe must concentrate on its core tasks. We have to review what is a European matter and what is a national one. Competences have to be shifted - towards the Member states as well as towards the EU. Europe should have lean and clear-cut competences. Only this way Europe can react quickly to the new challenges of the 21st century. The citizen must know who is responsible for actions taken (or not taken). The citizen should have confidence in Europe.

Where to cut and what to add? The EU must basically have competence in the areas of CFSP, a functioning and economically competitive single European market, joint representation abroad and a single currency, reform of the CAP and (where cross-border arrangements are in place) in the fields of justice, internal security, transport, infrastructure, the environment and health protection. Conversely, everything relating to established civil and cultural traditions and what is referred to as "civil society" should remain the preserve of the Member States, i.e. matters such as Member State's internal administration (including local autonomy, family affairs and social security), the labour market, immigration, education, culture, sport.

The reforms aim at establishing a large and strong EU, which safeguards its heritage, meets its responsibilities for the future and finds acceptance among its citizens. The EU must become more democratic, more transparent and closer to the citizen. The decision making process therefore has to be reviewed entirely. As mentioned above, clear-cut competences and a concentration on key tasks are a must in my eyes. Additionally, the EP has to be involved more in the decision making process and should receive the right to initiate legislation. Secret circles in the Council shall become public. Without these changes, the EU will continue to lack democratic control and legitimacy.

Some tools for the redefinition of the EU's task and its decision making process can be found in the following principles:

the principle of subsidiarity as the key guiding principle

the basic assumption that responsibilities lie with the Member States unless clearly granted to the EU

clear forms of action (reduce intergovernmental co-operation, structure and define forms and means of action)

make EU-action foreseeable.

General clauses such as Article 308 EC Treaty, on which more than 700 acts are based, shall hitherto work in both ways: granting competences to the EU and withdrawing them. An appropriate mechanism could be to limit the acts based on Article 308 in time until the next IGC where the Member States have the possibility to integrate a new competence in the Treaty. If they fail to do so, the act has to be repealed.

Some observations on foreign and security policy

Foreign and Security Policy is the one area in which the EU has developed most in past 10 years:

1993:       establishment of foreign policy in Maastricht Treaty

1999:       Nomination of a “Mr. FASP” according to Amsterdam-Treaty,

also creation of bodies in the council and staff infrastructure (political, military committee)


              for crisis management: 60.000 people by 2003

-               police and administrative forces for security and institutional buildings 5000 policemen

At the same time international relations are undergoing a substantial change: other methods, other issues

multinational organisations replace traditional bilateral relations (WTO, Kyoto, G7, ad hoc crisis management)

Middle East: new format quad which may serve as an example for future

Regional powers emerge (ASEAN, MERCOSUR) as new actors

the challenges are changing:

economic and related issues are of increasing importance

global environment has become a big topic

after the 11th September security matters have again become important (fight against terrorism…)

I feel that an EU international policy is the proper answer to the developments:

new instruments meet perfectly these new requirements

EU will become a major international player in the coming decades

Europe's role in the Middle East

The Middle East conflict can only be solved through mediation. But who can take this role? We are used to such conflicts being dealt with by the "world police", the United States. But Europe has to realise that being economically strong is not enough. Our cultural diversity and our economic contacts enable Europe to act as a mediator as well. The conditions on the side of the conflict parties, Israel and the Palestinians, are fulfilled as soon as Europe is considered to be a trustworthy partner. But Europe also has to do its homework by creating structures that allow Europe to speak a common language and to act accordingly. Both points are "areas with space for improvement". Yet, we have made a good start. On 25 November 1996 Miguel Angel Moratinos has been appointed Special Representative for the Middle East peace process and Javier Solana, together with the Presidency of the EU, negotiates with the parties. Certainly, humanitarian activities are of great importance. Europe invests most in humanitarian aid - and this applies world-wide. But this humanitarian assistance is not only a European, but also an international task. Even short term needs will run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Being in Oslo, I just mention the meeting of the international donor community held here in Oslo just a week ago. But Europe must also have the courage to use other than political means to end the conflict. One option could be the association agreement with Israel and the cutting of payments. Another option would be the deployment of troops. Both options though ask for a decision making process that is very complex.

As demonstrated by the example of the Middle East, active conflict prevention is the key to avoid or at least contain such conflicts. However, preventive measures such as humanitarian assistance, building of infrastructure, creating a civil society on a democratic basis are not enough. They have to be accompanied by repression if necessary. It is not enough to swear mutual support in GASP affairs. Thus, structures such as the Political and Security Committee and the Military Committee have to be fully integrated in Europe's decision making process. The first steps can be found in the Nice Treaty.

The relationship with the USA

Europe has a twofold role towards the US: partner and counterpart. My main concern is that Europe is a reliable partner for the US. Only if the "Big Brother" on the other side of the Atlantic can trust us, he is willing to accept Europe as a partner. We can witness this new policy on the Balkans and in other conflicts on the globe. At the same time, we become aware that the USA is simply not able to deal with all conflicts that may emerge. To fill this gap, Europe has to take its responsibilities to avoid a vacuum that might have terrible consequences. The Transatlantic Agenda is a major contribution for a better mutual understanding of the two big blocks. The landmarks in EU-US relations in recent years are the Transatlantic Declaration, the New Transatlantic Agenda and the Transatlantic Economic Partnership. The Transatlantic Declaration was adopted by the US and the EU in 1990. It laid down the principles for greater EU-US co-operation and consultation. Co-operation in the fields of economy (liberalisation, OECD, competition policy etc.), education, science and culture, and transnational challenges was established. A machinery of biannual summits and ministerial meetings, ad hoc Troika/Presidency meetings with the Secretary of State, and briefings on European Political Co-operation (now CFSP) was set up in the Declaration.

In 1995 the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) and the EU-US Joint Action Plan was adopted. The NTA and the Action Plan provide a framework for EU-US partnership and co-operation across a wide range of activities under four broad chapters: promoting peace and stability, democracy, and development around the world; responding to global changes; contributing to the expansion of world trade and fostering closer ties; building bridges across the Atlantic.

The EU and the US launched the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP) at the London summit in May 1998. The TEP is an extension of the approach taken in the NTA. It includes both multilateral and bilateral elements. Bilaterally the purpose is to tackle technical barriers to trade. The purpose of the second part is to stimulate further multilateral liberalisation – by joining forces on international trade issues. An innovative aspect of the proposal is to integrate labour, business, environmental and consumer issues into the process. It is however too early to say what will come out of this partnership.

On the other hand, Europe should also be more self-confident and act as a containment counterpart of the US. Many examples can be given. The most striking one for me is the respect of the WTO rules. Europe has to remind its partner that international treaties are binding and should not refrain from taking measures to assure their respect.

The 11 September

The date 11 September is a sort of a synthesis of both points I just have mentioned: Europe's role in the Middle East and the relationship to the USA. It shows on the one hand how important it is that Europe assumes its world-wide responsibility. Terrorist attacks have effects beyond all continents. Fanatics cannot be contained by humanitarian contacts or cultural exchange. But their society can be stabilised and rendered to be less likely a fertile ground for such tendencies. Europe's unanimous, quick and unconditional support for the USA proved that we are a reliable partner. This time in defending our common values of freedom and democracy.


The discussion about the future of Europe brings out many ideas. My task as a member of the Convention and as a MEP is to combine the advantages Europe offers with the changes it needs. Since there are different views in detail on what Europe should do and different interests, the discussion is heavy and cumbersome. But we all have noticed the need to modernise our Europe. A wind of change is blowing in Europe. As in the weather forecasts, it is always difficult to say how it will develop. But one thing is for sure: There will be a new Europe.


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