|Vol.7, No.6, 8.2.01, p5
MEPS are set to back down from a face off with member states over the institutional reforms agreed at the Nice summit and will instead focus on getting what they want from the subsequent debate on the future of Europe.
They had threatened ratification of the treaty by formally opposing the deals brokered on streamlining the EU's institutions during the marathon summit last December. Now they are likely to focus instead on preparing for the next round of treaty talks in 2004.
At a meeting of the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee this week MEPs renewed their criticism of the treaty, saying the reforms agreed were too weak to prepare the Union for an enlargement to include up to 27 members. But they stressed that a confrontation with EU governments would be futile.
"If we were to have a clash strategy with the Commission and the Parliament on one side and member states on the other this would be the way to lose the battle," said Belgian Green MEP Monica Frassoni. "What really counts is what happens between now and 2004."
Although the European Parliament has no formal powers to block the Nice treaty, a strong protest could have derailed it. The Italian parliament had threatened not to ratify the treaty if MEPs refused to give their approval.
But now it seems likely that the Parliament will not even adopt a text offering either formal backing or condemnation of the treaty. Instead MEPs will produce a series of reports on the 'post-Nice' process that, though critical of the Nice deal, will focus more on a promise by EU leaders to initiate a wider debate on the future of Europe. This could include a clarification and simplification of the treaties as a whole.
In particular, MEPs are keen to push the idea of setting up a convention of national and EU parliamentarians.
"I think we will view the issue of Nice more positively if the convention issue is clarified satisfactorily," said German socialist MEP Jo Leinen.
Assembly members want to get the debate on the future of Europe going as quickly as possible because the next round of treaty talks are due to be completed in 2004 - the same year as the European Parliamentary elections. MEPs could then campaign on the basis of the results.
They are also worried that the Parliament will lose influence in the talks if a newly-elected assembly has to deal with the crucial phase of negotiations.
MEPs are set to back down from a face off with Member States over the institutional reforms agreed at the Nice summit and will instead focus on getting what they want from the subsequent debate on the future of Europe.
|Politics and International Relations