Our European Future

This is a policy paper from a group I chaired, which became the policy of LDYS (Liberal Democrat Youth and Students, as they then were) at their Autumn Conference in 1997.  It’s not policy of anyone, and I no longer agree with all of it, but I’m putting it here so there is a copy available on-line; it was only available on paper hitherto.

Introduction and Remit

The LDYS EU working group has a remit limited to the consideration of the structures of a federal EU government and to the external aspects of foreign and security policy. We intend to present other papers dealing with other specific policy areas to future conferences. The general question of the division of powers between the European, national and regional levels is expressly excluded from the remit of this paper,
since it would in effect require a policy paper that covered everything – considering who should make a decision is difficult without thinking about the sort of decision they should make. Most decisions can already be taken at EU level, but the member-state veto tends to result in few actually being taken. In other words, it is the structure by which the EU takes decisions, rather than a lack of actual power to take them, that keeps so much decided by the member-states. We hope that future policy papers and motions will consider not only what LDYS policy should be, but where the power to take such decisions should reside – local, regional, national or European level.

Section One: Structures

The European Union’s structures are in desperate need of reform. The EU was established as an international agency, in the same manner as UN agencies such as UNESCO. This means that it operated by the consent of every member state and its decisions were implemented by the member states. Over the years it has evolved in to a body that is much more governmental in its nature. It has not changed its structures adequately to allow for the changing role of the organisation and for the expansion
from the original ECSC of Six to the current EU of Fifteen and probable future expansion to twenty or more. The most powerful body in the modern EU is the Council of Ministers; still the lineal descendant of the diplomatic conferences that established the EEC in the first place. Even in the days of Jacques Delors, the most powerful person within the EC was the head of government of a member state – Helmut Kohl. This structure is illiberal, unrepresentative and undemocratic.

The European Parliament over-represents the smaller member-states and underrepresents the larger ones. This – and the similar imbalance in the Council of Ministers when operating by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) derive from a compromise between equality between states and equality between citizens. This compromise is false.

LDYS propose the following reforms to the structures of the EU:

1. In the immediate future, LDYS will pursue the following:

  • Incorporation of the European Declaration of Human Rights into EU law.
  • Opening up the Council of Ministers to public scrutiny.
  • Equalisation of the membership in the European Parliament and a common electoral system of STV in multi-member constituencies.
  • Increasing the powers of the European Parliament and in particular increasing the usage of the co-decision procedure
  • Increasing the use of QMV in the council and lowering the threshold for a qualified majority from five-sixths to two-thirds.

In the longer term, we aim for a complete restructuring along the following lines:

2. To replace the Council of Ministers with a Senate: Each member state would have five representatives in the Senate, elected by the national parliament immediately after each general election on a basis of STV.

3. To adjust the membership of the European Parliament so that each MEP represents a million citizens. The smallest member state should still have one MEP. A common electoral system of STV in multi-member constituencies should be introduced. It would be elected for fixed four year terms. The European Parliament should decide for itself where its sittings should be.

4. The European Parliament would have the final decision on all legislation, although the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Council would be consulted.

Once passed, it would move to the Senate, which can accept, amend or reject. If the Senate amends or rejects a bill, it would return to the Parliament which can then pass it in whatever form it chooses without further reference to the Senate.

5. A new European executive should be established to replace the executive responsibilities of the Commission and the Council of Ministers. The administrative aspects of the Commission would continue as a civil service. It will be called the “European Cabinet” and will be directly elected by the European Parliament by a separate AV vote using a secret ballot for each position. If there is a vote of no
confidence in the Parliament, then there are new elections to the Cabinet. Members who resign would be replaced in the same manner. The European Parliament would decide number of cabinet ministers, the titles of the various ministers and their exact responsibilities and whether or not to have a “Prime Minister”.

6. All of these structures should be part of a federal constitution, which should also incorporate a “Declaration of the Rights of the European Citizen”. The European Court of Justice would be a court of final appeal in regard to both the constitution and European legislation. It will consist of one judge from each member-state, appointed by their national judiciaries. A President will be elected by the judges from amongst their own number. Cases will be heard by groups of five judges, sitting as the Court of First Instance. Several such Courts can hear cases at the same time. In cases regarding the
constitution where there has been a split verdict or where two judges who did not hear the case at first instance request it, there would be a right of appeal to a hearing of the full court.

7. The constitution can be amended by a two-thirds majority in a referendum called by the European Parliament.

Section Two: Foreign and Security Policy

The European Union does in theory have a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). At the moment, this means that the Foreign ministers have regular meetings to co-ordinate their policy; it has also involved the mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is some degree of co-operation between the diplomatic and particularly consular services of the member-states.

In the Security (that is, defence) arena, the major developments of recent years have been the work of Panavia on the Tornado and now the Eurofighter and the setting up of Eurocorps. This is a joint force consisting of contingents from several member states.

LDYS propose:

1. That the diplomatic and consular services of the EU member-states increase their co-operation. In particular, in some parts of the world it is proving very expensive for even the larger countries to have an embassy in every state. If embassies and consulates in some of the more distant parts of the world were merged into EU embassies and consulates, it would be possible to have full-time ambassadors in every country in the world (only the USA can do this at present). Also an EU consulate in some of the smaller or more remote cities would be far better than three member-state consulates in one and then none in the next city. Of course, member-states would retain independent embassies and consulates in the more important countries and cities (Washington, Moscow, Beijing, etc.)

2. That the EU be given full, rather than advisory membership of the UN and its agencies (UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO, etc.), with an eventual aim of a permanent seat on the Security Council, replacing the UK and French seats.

3. An EU foreign policy should be a matter for the EU minister with responsibility for foreign relations, and the Foreign Ministers of the member-states will be responsible for their own policies.

4. There should be a single European agency for defence procurement, to ensure effective co-ordination and to reduce the political pressure for national preference. European militaries are bottom-heavy; they rely on the USA for top-level command, control and communications (C3). Also, the diversity in weapons systems is extremely wasteful; a European agency would resolve many of these problems.

5. The process of European integration was started in order to and will continue to seek to prevent and avoid war. European trading of arms with oppressive regimes should stop at once.

6. Nuclear weapons should remain exclusively a matter for the member states. LDYS restate their desire for an end to all nuclear weapons.

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