The emergence and reception of the Commission's White Paper may be placed in the context of a reform process in which many of the limitations and possibilities, dangers and opportunities discussed above assume concrete form. The White Paper initiative can usefully be viewed as a constitutional episode at the point of intersection between two distinct, but closely inter-related, regulatory projects, each with distinct but closely inter-related constitutional discourses and legitimacy challenges.
On the one hand, much of the impetus for the White Paper is internally driven. It is the acknowledged progeny of a new Commission President, Romano Prodi, its conception announced at the outset of the new 2000-2005 Commission, its purpose of "promoting new forms of European governance" unveiled as one of four key strategic objectives alongside stabilising the continent and boosting Europe's voice in the world, generating a new economic and social agenda, and fostering a better quality of life for all.44 An important subtext of this new governance project, of course, as with every major initiative of the new Commission (including, most prominently, Neil Kinnock's institutional reform programme),45 is the corruption and mismanagement scandal which led to the eclipse of the previous Santer Commission, and the desire to distance the new Commission from the events in question and the attitudes and practice which made them possible. More positively, however, the White Paper appeared to be motivated by a double-pronged concern for the legitimacy of the EU's framework of governance; for both the intrinsic merit of the governance values it should instantiate - or regime legitimacy - and its instrumental capacity to fashion better policies and more effective policy delivery - performance legitimacy.46
On the other hand, there is clearly also an external context to the Commission's White Paper. Even as it was launched, the Commission President acknowledged that it would proceed in "parallel with the IGC"47 as well as with the broader Kinnock reform programme. As time has passed, the relationship between the internal and the external process has become more palpable. The Treaty of Nice - the legal outcome of the IGC to which Prodi refers - in its immediate launch of "a deeper and wider debate about the future development of the European Union"48 has confirmed the analysis of one commentator, that Europe is now engaged in a "semi-permanent Treaty revision process."49 This meant that, as it took shape, the White Paper was required not only to take account of the backdrop of a newly accomplished set of institutional reforms directed to preparing the Union for enlargement - Nice's explicit project - but also to contribute to, or at least remain cognisant of, an ongoing venture culminating in a new IGC in 2004 and signposted at Nice only in the most general terms. These signs included, but were quite explicitly not limited to an exploration of the possibility of establishing a more precise delimitation of competences between the European Union and the Member States, an examination of the role of national Parliaments in the European architecture, an analysis of the potential for the simplification, clarification and consolidation of the Treaties, and an assessment of the appropriate future status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (whose proclamation at Nice and preparation over the preceding months had attracted just as much media and institutional attention, and arguably greater public involvement than the pre-Nice IGC process itself).50 In its published form, the White Paper responds to this continuing process not only by acting upon Prodi's initial promise to make recommendations for the governance of the Union as a whole and not simply in respect of the Commission's own role, but also by committing itself to draw upon the principles enunciated in the White Paper in its contribution to the European Council at Laeken in December 2002 - the first key staging-post in the post-Nice process.51
44 R. Prodi, "Shaping the New Europe", Speech to the European Parliament, 15 February 2000.
45 See, in particular, Reforming the Commission, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 5th May 2000, COM(2000) 200; N. Kinnock, "State of Play on Administrative Reform", Speech to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 3 September 2001.
46 This theme is to the fore both in Prodi's speech announcing the White Paper (n.44 above) and, as we shall see, in the Report itself.
47 See n.44 above.
48 Treaty of Nice, Annex IV, Declaration on the Future of the Union.
49 B. de Witte, "The Closest Thing to a Constitutional Conversation in Europe: The Semi-Permanent Treaty Revision Process," in P. Beaumont, C. Lyons and N. Walker (eds) Convergence and Divergence in European Public Law, (Oxford: Hart, forthcoming).
50 See, for example, G. De Búrca, "The Drafting of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights," (2001) 26 European Law Review, 126.
51 See n.48 above.