PAOLA BUONADONNA: France's Europe Minister, Pierre
Moscovici is on a delicate mission. The people of his country, like elsewhere,
are falling out of love with Europe and a crisis of confidence is engulfing
the EU institutions. Even the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which
are seeking admission have doubts. Moscovici travels to them constantly.
Today's destination is Poland.
Whilst Britain is still
soul searching on the Euro, a different debate has taken off in the rest
of Europe. The main issue is how the EU should reform to function in the
Twenty-First Century and now could be the last chance to achieve fundamental
changes before the Union becomes too big to agree on anything. Everybody
accepts that the European Union must become more effective and more accountable
to its citizens. But will this also mean another step in the development
of an ever closer Union, with the European Union getting more powers at
the expense of national governments?
Finding their way through
the maze of options for reform is a group of representatives from all EU
countries, including Mr Moscovici and from the applicant countries too.
They're known as the Convention. They will set the agenda for the next
round of negotiations in 2004, just before Poland and the other new members
join in. Mr Moscovici has come to meet the Polish representatives.
PIERRE MOSCOVICI: Theoretically everything is
possible. We could decide to go further in European integration which means
to give more power to Europe. We need to have a political control. We
need more legitimacy, we need transparency and this is why our institutions
cannot be something felt as abstract, as outside of our decision, of the
PROFESSOR PETER GLOTZ: I'm not interested in a European
Union and the Germans aren't be interested in a European Union which is
nothing but an internal market.
DAVID HEATHCOAT-AMORY: The worst case is if the solution
to the acknowledged problems is perceived to be simply more Europe, more
centralisation, more expenditure, more majority voting, more civil servants
and more politicians. That is the danger, that is the whole thrust of the
European Union over the past forty- five years. If they don't change direction,
then I think the whole exercise will be a waste of time.
BUONADONNA: It's not just the British who
feel that Europe has swallowed up too many powers. People here in Poland
as well as in other aspiring new member states, are also concerned about
the loss of national sovereignty. But there are still significant pressures
to have more decisions taken centrally, by the European Union through its
Pierre Moscovici is here
to reassure the Poles that they won't lose their identity. But once they
and the others join in there are calls for the veto power of each country
to be reduced, to avoid paralysis. And there's already a long list of suggestions
on the Convention's table for areas in which European integration could
be reinforced. They range from foreign and defence policy, to police and
justice, economic and social policy and even taxation.
GLOTZ: I personally believe that
a Euro tax would make sense. That means money for which the European Parliament
in the future would have a budget right.
JEAN-LUC DEHAENE: If you want to come out of the
present discussion on financial needs and move discussions from 'I want
my money back' and so on, I think the best way to solve that is to have
a European, and a real European source of income, like for instance the
custom taxes are. You can have some internal taxes too, which should be
real European income tax.
MOSCOVICI: Prime Minister Jospin,
is in favour of a social treaty in Europe in order to strengthen the cohesion
of Europe on this field. I also think that Justice and home affairs have
to be taken very seriously by Europe because we're just fighting terrorism
right now and we see that nation states are very important but they are
not sufficient for that. These are the two main areas - I also think about
defence, about security, about foreign affairs policy - well, we've got
to discuss that.
BUONADONNA: A tete-a-tete with the Polish
Prime Minister was one of the highlights of Mr Moscovici's trip. Britain
has no problem with Europe co-operating more in foreign policy but it finds
itself in a very uncomfortable position when there are calls for an economic
government and when France and others put forward ideas for tax co-ordination.
HEATHER GRABBE: Britain has long resisted the idea
of tax co-ordination and certainly of tax harmonisation and Britain can
do that because you have to have a unanimous vote in the EU in order to
get that kind of agreement. The problem is that the Euro zone members are
discussing these issues among themselves and Britain is not part of the
debate. So they could come to a decision about perhaps coming towards more
economic policy co-ordination in a way that Britain doesn't like and Britain
cannot stop them from doing it, because we're not actually part of that
BUONADONNA: Once the applicant countries
join the European Union club, decision-making could come to a standstill,
weakening Europe's effectiveness and prestige. The French, the Germans
and many other governments believe that in the future more decisions should
be taken if the majority of the member states are in favour rather than
all having to agree to everything.
GLOTZ: I hope that we will find
in a lot of fields to co-decision procedure with qualified majority and
then indeed, Europe will be stronger than it is today. And I think after
the 11th September in the attacks in New York, this is the only possibility
that European states like the UK and Germany can play a sensitive role
in this dangerous and complicated world.
BUONADONNA: After the decision-makers,
it's time to meet the Polish opinion-formers, at the offices of the influential
national newspaper Gazeta Viborcha. Many countries believe that people
would understand the EU better if it had a constitution, a basic text which
sets out its role. Critics in Britain argue that a European constitution
would undermine the national states.
HEATHCOTE AMORY; It tends to be federations that
have constitutions between countries so it would in a sense be sanctifying
a federal structure for Europe, which is of course very much not what either
I or indeed the British government or certainly the British people want.
MOSCOVICI: I know that it's not
in the British tradition to have a constitution but we must think about
it together and I notice very positively that the target of constitutional
treaty was written in the Laeken Declaration which was of course accepted
by all the governments in Europe including the British Government.
BUONADONNA; Tony Blair came to Warsaw two
years ago to speak about the Europe he wanted. Now it's France's turn to
set out its vision. With most other EU countries France is keen for the
Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was drafted in 2000, to be made legally
binding so that the EU could set new standards in areas like trade union
MOSCOVICI: The Charter is very
important because it tells us what are the values that we share, what
are the rights that have to be respected, dignity, solidarity, justice
and freedom. And it's very important that it has to be legally binding
in order that we can translate those values into acts that we can sanction
people or countries who don't respect those values.
GRABBE: Britain is having a debate
within the government about this question. The Foreign Office has traditionally
been much more wary of incorporating it into the EU's treaties whereas
I probably think Number Ten, Downing Street is becoming much more relaxed
about that issue.
HEATHCOTE-AMORY: During the treaty of Nice negotiations
the British Government gave an explicit assurance that the Charter of Fundamental
Rights was not legally binding and would not be - it was only a political
declaration or aspiration and I think it would be a betrayal of all the
assurances we were given if they give in and allow that document now to
become legally binding at the first opportunity. Those assurances were
always suspect, they will be shown to be worthless if they give in on that
BUONADONNA: The French ambassador's parties
are of course always excellent. But the institutions of the EU are less
popular. Another issue the Convention will look at is what to do to make
the European Commission more accountable. Britain is against turning the
Commission into a political entity. But many politicians in Europe believe
the Commission President should be elected, rather than appointed by the
heads of state.
MOSCOVICI: What I propose is that
the President of the convention - of the commission is appointed through
the European election. Such as any election you need to have a fight between
the Conservatives and the Social Democrats. And I think that the leader
of the coalition who wins the election must also be the President of the
DEHAENE: The Europe of tomorrow
will be a much more political Europe who wants to play a role on world
level to have a voice, to be one of the powers that is taken to account,
at world level. Well, if you want that you need an executive level that
is democratically elected and that level is the President of the Commission
BUONADONNA: It would be easy to dismiss
the Convention as just another European talking shop. In reality governments
around Europe are taking it very seriously - it hasn't even been launched
yet and already the national representatives travel around to meet each
other to forge alliances and deals, eager for their own particular vision
of Europe to prevail in the end. The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
has good allies in Europe. Denmark, Italy and Spain are all keen to rein
in the EU. But the traditional Franco-German alliance, the push for more
integration has not run out of steam yet .
MOSCOVICI: If we put our strength
all together then we're stronger - then we have the real weight, then we
can have also a shared leadership with the US and not be always following
them. So this is why we need to make more Europe
HEATHCOTE-AMORY: There is a huge federalist momentum
in Europe. A great many continental politicians and the technocratic class
in Europe believes that the solution is always more powers at the centre
and unless they can reverse that, then I think we're going to get ourselves
deeper in the mud.
BUONADONNA: The Warsaw visit draws to a
close but the debate on the future of Europe is just beginning. The convention
has a huge task on its hands if it is to increase people's respect for
Europe. But if it goes down the route of more and stronger integration
it will be very hard for the British Government to sell it back home.