Brussels, 4 May 2022 – The ambitious project to change EU treaties to make the bloc able to face the challenges of our time isn’t a fast and easy process.
The Lisbon Treaty, for instance, or Maastricht are international treaties and in order to change or amend them, it would not just take the vote of the EU Parliament, but also the approval of each national one and possible national referendums.
The path is long, then. But the new revolutionary wave of reform is important to us all as this doesn’t just come from recent stances of national leaders in the wake of Russian aggression, but also from the grassroots, from the citizens of the EU who expressed in the Conference on the Future of Europe the need for a radical change.
The two years long collective citizenship’s consultation made by a randomly selected panel of 800 young, adopted 49 proposals, more than 300 measures, at its final session last 29-30 April which today MEPs adopted with an overwhelming majority triggering the new path to treaty reform.
Yes we can change: but how? What’s the direction EU must take. The main points of the agenda are:
1) Replacing the unanimity vote with a qualified majority one. The unanimity is currently required in the EU parliament for vital matters such as the acceptance of new member states. A number of EU leaders called to fast track the Ukraine accession, such as Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg who yesterday said EU must consider radical treaty change over Ukraine; he also called for the bloc to consider granting neighbouring states quick access to ‘parts of the common market’. But it’s today’s Orban’s veto on EU embargo on Russian oil that shows the unanimity required on vital foreign policy matters is to be abolished.
2) Harmonisation of different security and defense systems; an urgent need for change raised by the current war in Ukraine and the threat from Russia. Yesterday Italy’s PM Mario Draghi noted the urgency of coordination of security and defense systems within the bloc as “EU defense budget is three times as much the one of Russia, but is split in 146 systems, the USA have only 34”.
3) An effective common EU foreign policies which would empower the EEAS, while today national stances, national supremacy and differences prevail. The issue here is of huge relevance and impact as, for instance, Macron’s France is for keeping dialogue open with Putin while EU common policy is not fostering dialogue, negotiations and diplomacy with the Kremlin in this phase of the war going instead towards cutting overall relations and isolating Russia internationally.
4) Empowering EU Parliament by enabling MEPs to make proposals. Such a reform would reduce the Commission’s power and influence as currently only the Commission holds the right to initiative for planning, preparing and proposing new European legislation.
5) Reform of Health policy and systems: many the issues raised by the Covid19 pandemic from the need to coordinate response to pandemic, need to uniform devices and standard of healthcare premises and structures for a ready to go interchanges between states.
The direction is therefore towards EU federalism and further integration at all levels, included immigration and taxation.
The proposals for a structural amendment of treaties’ such as Lisbon and Maastricht is only advisory and will have to be passed by the EU 27 member states with unanimous vote: a paradox given that the EU parliament will have to vote unanimously to get rid of unanimity. This recalls the damning issue of the reform of the United Nations Security Council which should vote unanimously to abolish its Five Permanents members veto power), a reform that, in fact, remained at the stage of proposal from the last 40 years.