Verhofstadt vows to fight EU ‘failings’

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Series Details Vol 7, No.18, 3.5.01, p1
Publication Date 03/05/2001
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Date: 03/05/01

Announcing his country's 16 priorities for its Presidency of the Union, which starts in July, Verhofstadt said yesterday (2 May) a planned declaration on preparations for the next round of treaty reforms to be agreed at the Laeken summit in December would focus on the Union's failings.

"Laeken will be a starting point for a process which takes criticism seriously," he said, citing the lack of efficiency, transparency, democratic legitimacy and the loss of identity as the public's main concerns about the EU's current state.

Verhofstadt also pledged to broaden the debate beyond the narrow agenda agreed by EU leaders at the Nice summit. But he denied this would lead to an early clash between the pro and anti-federalist members of the EU, arguing that the

Nice items were only the minimum basis for the next round of treaty reforms to address.

"You can't say we're broadening the agenda because they were only examples which were agreed in Nice," he said.

Last December EU leaders agreed to tackle power-sharing between Union and national authorities, simplification of the treaties, strengthening national parliaments' role in decision-making and defining the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Belgian presidency programme does not specifically mention efforts to boost tax harmonisation although the country's finance minister, Didier Reynders, said recently this would be a priority.

Verhofstadt said his country's focus would be on preparing the general public for the introduction of the euro next January, setting indicators for working conditions, agreeing an EU immigration policy and setting up Eurojust, the EU's judges' network.

The premier said he also wanted to make progress on enlargement by ensuring that the Union agrees a common position on key questions in the negotiations such as the level of support to farmers in applicant countries and the free movement of workers.

Verhofstadt also unveiled the Presidency logo - a bowler in the colours of the Belgian flag, tipping its hat to the traditions of Belgium's most famous surrealist painter, René Magritte.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has promised to address public criticism of the EU when his country fixes the agenda for the forthcoming debate on the future of Europe.

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