Key issues in the future of Europe debate

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Series Details Vol.7, No.7, 22.2.01, p10
Publication Date 22/02/2001
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Date: 22/02/01

EU LEADERS agreed at the end of the Nice summit to hold a "wider and deeper debate about the future development of the European Union" with national parliaments and representatives from political, economic and civil society.

Heads of state and government will discuss ways of taking this process forward at the Belgian presidency's Laeken summit in December.

They must also consider four key issues ahead of the next Intergovernmental Conference in 2004:l defining how power will be shared between Union, national and regional authorities;l the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights;l simplifying the EU Treaties to make them more easily understood; l clarifying the role of national parliaments in the EU structure.

They also agreed to "monitor the democratic legitimacy and transparency of the Union and its institutions, to bring them closer to the citizens of the member states".

Germany, Finland and the Benelux countries are in favour of creating a convention with representatives from the European Parliament, the European commission, national parliaments and Union governments to carry out preparatory work for a new treaty.

But they face strong opposition from the UK, which is concerned that such a forum might have too federalist an agenda.

Germany wants a catalogue of competences to determine at which level of government decisions are taken, in response to concerns from its federal states which fear losing power to EU institutions.

But the UK and others are reluctant to have too rigid a division of power because competence is already increasingly being shared.

Germany leads a group of countries that want use the Charter as the basis for a legally binding constitution. But they are opposed by the UK, Ireland and others.

The UK wants clarification of the role of national parliaments in a bid to give assemblies a greater scrutiny role over decisions taken in the EU institutions.

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