Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law



If there is something outdated in the Union's way of evolving, it is probably not the Monnet method-at least, in the way I understand it-but in the treaty revision procedure, i.e., the so-called Inter-governmental Conference. The current IGC is the fourth IGC since 1985. In reality-from a political, not legal point of view-there has been one single IGC which has been interrupted from time to time in order to ratify its intermediate results. I have come to this conclusion, not simply because of the rapid succession in time of these Conferences, but also because of the links established between the IGCs. When, in Milan in June 1985, the Heads of State and Government convened an IGC by majority vote, they wanted to provide the Community with the instruments necessary for the realisation of the single market. The best expression of their expectations with regard to this IGC is the title of their final text: The Single European Act. But there was a trick to it. Commission President Delors had convinced the IGC to introduce Article 102(a) EEC, the second paragraph of which made it mandatory to have recourse to the procedure of the treaty revision (the then Article 236) for the establishment of a monetary union. Until then, it had been argued by some that the then Article 235 (now Article 308) was sufficient to do so. What seemed to be a step back at that time was the real starting point of a continuing IGC. It was this Article 102(a) which made the Maastricht conference necessary. Maastricht itself contained an appointment for the next IGC in 1996,13 because of the general feeling that the appropriate answers to the political union had not been found. Amsterdam created the so-called left-overs and thus the obligation to hold the current IGC,14 and now we are talking about the next appointment in 2004.

There is a decline in the quality of the IGCs. No doubt, the creation of the single market was a major development. No doubt, the same applies for the Maastricht creation of the monetary union. The following steps are more an effort to tidy things up. If Amsterdam was intended to create a political union, it did not achieve this objective, and without diminishing the importance of the so-called left-overs, the current one is even less ambitious. Despite this, we expect this same procedure to deliver a major qualitative step, to establish the European constitution, to put the final touches to the European house in 2004? The question is rhetoric. The current method of the IGCs is unworkable.

But there is a new model on hand: consider the procedure for the establishment of a Charter on Fundamental Rights. The Convention operates with fifteen personal representatives of the Heads of State and Government, sixteen members from the European Parliament, one Commissioner and 30 representatives coming from the national parliaments. So, here is a model fully integrating national parliaments in the procedure for the establishment of a piece of the future constitution. There is no going back now. National parliaments will never again accept being only confronted with a new treaty negotiated exclusively between the governments, and being simply asked to ratify it.15

Certainly, the Convention procedure for the charter could be improved. Especially the representation of the national parliaments could be looked at afresh. The number of thirty provides for two delegates per Member State. It does not relate to the different population sizes represented nor to the number of chambers involved (24). One could also question the capacity of the national parliaments' delegation to work out a coherent line.

The idea of such an involvement of the national parliaments is certainly not the last word and, with regard to the IGCs, it might be even unrealistic. This would be sad, because, in such a case, we would go back to the misconception of the Monnet method-the muddling through. The results achieved in the permanent IGCs would be smaller and smaller.

This sounds pessimistic and is not justified if one considers the achievements of the last fifteen years: the single market, EMU, almost full parliamentary involvement in legislation, the by now realistic prospect of an area of security, freedom and justice, and the emerging common foreign security and defence policy.

Whenever I feel prone to growing pessimism, I go back to the comments made by the British observer at the mid-term session of the Messina conference, Mr Russel Bretherton. Before rising from the negotiating table, he said: `Gentlemen, you are trying to negotiate something you will never be able to negotiate. But if negotiated, it will not be ratified. And if ratified, it will not work.'16 Compared to this, we have not done so badly.

13 See, Declaration No. 16 annexed to the Final Act.

14 See, the Protocol on the institutions with the prospect of enlargement of the European Union and the Declaration by Belgium, France and Italy on this Protocol.

15 Mrs Vosukainen (loc cit n. 10) seems to be sceptical about this: national delegations could not bind their national parliaments. This is true. However, national parliaments would retain their ratification right and they would be better informed about progress in negotiations than before. Her argument is totally correct with regard to ordinary legislation, where the last word is said at European level, but not for treaty revision.

16 Young (1998:93).



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