Ms. Sylvie GOULARD
Consultant for the Policy Planning Staff, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Paris Researcher at the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales CERI,
BEYOND THE TREATY OF NICE: MORE LEFT-OVERS OR NEW UNION?
Lecture in the Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar "The French Presidency
and the Treaty of Nice - EU Reforms or European Vanguard?", PARIS, 16 November
First of all, I would like to thank the Cicero Foundation for inviting me today.
I was asked to speak on the goals of the French Presidency in preparing the
treaty of Nice, but before that, let me introduce myself : I am a French career
diplomat and have been working for the policy planning staff of the Quai d'Orsay
since 1996, in charge of European matters and, in particular, of our very close
relationship with the German PPS, the Planungsstab.
I was specially involved in the Franco-German study on The European Union with
30 members and more, along with Martin Kremer, who is one of the speakers of
this seminar and to whom I give my best regards. I still work for the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs as a consultant but, now, as a fellow doing research at the
CERI, the think tank of Sciences-Po, my point of view will be personal, not
Now, let us come back to the purpose of today's meeting. As I said, I was asked
to speak on the goals of the French Presidency. I shall try to explain those
goals and also say a few words (when possible) on the current positions of the
different states at the present stage of the discussion, even though no one
can exactly foresee the result of such a negotiation before it is finished...
This will be my first point.
But it is impossible to speak about the treaty of Nice now, without taking
into account the long term perspective and the already opened debate on the
future of the EU: beyond the treaty of Nice, what do we need? What will enlargement
mean from an institutional point of view? What about a constitution, a vanguard?
This will be my second shorter point, because I don't want to interfere with
the next speeches.
I. What Are the Goals of the French Presidency?
All the current members of the EU face a dilemma :
- on the one hand, there is an obvious need for institutional reform: as it
is, the old institutions of the Rome Treaty, conceived for only six states,
are having trouble getting ahead. As you all know, the citizens want Europe
to be more democratic, more efficient. Whatever the future number of member
states and wherever the borders of the EU will be, everybody knows that a deep-going
reform is necessary. This reform is in the interest of the current member states,
it is also in the interest of the candidate members: after all the efforts they
make to swallow the acquis communautaire, they have the right to join an efficient
union which is able to decide in a democratic way.
- on the other hand, nobody wants to postpone enlargement. As long as there
is no consensus on the content of a deeper going reform, being too ambitious
could delay the arrival of new members.
The main goal of the French Presidency is to conciliate both priorities. I
can sum it up very simply: no status quo, no delay. The goals are modest, because
the most important thing is to avoid a deadlock and move ahead. As I'm sure
you are all aware: this is a very tough job!
The need for institutional reform was already recognized by the twelve in Corfou,
in 1994...The Dutch Presidency leading the former IGC did a very good job, but
faced also very tricky matters. On the most difficult points of the agenda,
in particular on the size of the Commission and the weighting of votes, the
member states have only agreed on a protocol annexed to the treaty which oblige
them to negotiate again...
The present agenda was defined in Cologne in June 1999 and in Helsinki in December
1999, where the states decided to focus on three main points :
- the size and composition and the Commission
<- the weighting of votes within the Council
- the extension of the field of qualified majority.
During the last months, two more points have been added : the enhanced cooperation
and, after the sanctions against Austria, the modification of article 7 of the
treaty (violation of rights and principles).
Let's have a look at these 3+2 main items of the agenda.
Size and Composition of the Commission
1.1.Let me begin with one of the most controversial, the size and composition
of the Commission.
In Amsterdam, the French government defended a vigorous pro-Commission position
(10 or 12 commissioners maximum). It is still aiming - if possible - at reducing
the whole number of commissioners. Inspired by the French conception of intérêt
général, it believes that a strong Commission is a small one, which is able
to decide collectively and to defend the common interest of the EU. The supranational
Commission doesn't actually have the same logic as the Council, in which each
state has to be represented. The French government would prefer a Commission
of below 20 members: that means that France could even accept a rotation principle,
which might exclude, for a certain period, the presence of any French member.
As you all know, it is difficult for the so-called small states to give up
their commissioner. One understands the very good reasons why, from their point
of view, they don't want to move: they have to feel present in the core of Europe,
their populations have to accept the European decisions. From a technical point
of view, it is important for example that the different resorts of the Commission
know all the legal systems and political situations existing in the EU.
On the other hand, if the Commission does not remain a supranational, efficient
body, the EU could suffer. It might even fall under control of the biggest countries
or become a intergovernmental kind of organization. Would it be good for the
small states? Just have a look at the very different attitudes of the Council
and of the Commission during the Austrian crisis. I am personally convinced
that the Commission has better respected the spirit of the treaties than the
fourteen states. The latest trends in the field of defence are also rather worrying...
The problem is that the so-called large countries - like France, but France
is not alone - are not perfectly reliable in their defence of the Commission...
After having criticized Brussels and its technocrats during decades, after having
sent good or less good commissioners, their sudden love sounds a little bit
Where are we so far ?
At the latest stage of the negotiations, after the informal meeting of Biarritz,
a step-by-step procedure seems to be a possible one :
- the solution of one state/ one commissioner would only be temporary
- the states would agree in Nice that, after a certain time, the number of members
of the Commission will be blocked below the number of the states. A rotation
principle will enter into force automatically, without new negotiations.
If the concessions on the weighting of votes permit that the big accept to
give up their second Commissioner, one can imagine that the result of Nice could
- until 2005, the present Commission remains as it is
- from 2005 to 2010, in the next Commission, there is one commissioner for each
- after 2010, the number is reduced to 20 commissioners with a rotation principle.
Another scenario could be to decide that the membership of state number X modifies
the rule (without fixing dates). But first of all, it is not easy to determine
the right number (would it be 20? 25? 27?). Furthermore it could make this membership
more difficult, even if this state has nothing to do with the deal itself !
That is the reason why the French government would prefer a provision of the
treaty giving only a time-table, in accordance with the beginning of the mandate
of the future Commissions.
If there is no agreement of a reduced number of commissioners, France would
at least support a reshaping of the Commission (by creating deputy-commissioners
for example) and a modification of the working methods.
The Weighting of the Votes in the Council
1.2. Now let's address the second crucial issue : the weighting of votes in
At the present time, a decision is adopted when it gets 62 positive votes (on
a total amount of 87, i.e about 70 % of the votes). The 5 largest countries
dispose of 10 votes, others countries of less (2 for Luxemburg for example).
Why do we have to succeed in "reweighting" the votes?
It is a very important issue for two reasons:
- first of all, the EU is very often criticized because its decisions are considered
not democratic enough. In a democracy the people has to be fairly represented.
Because of the previous enlargements, there is a serious unbalance between the
people represented and the amount of votes. Let me give you just a few figures:
- with 6 members, 70 % of the votes, represented 87% of the population of the
- with 15 members, it represents only 58% of the whole population of the EU,
while the minority to veto a project represents only 14% of the citizens.
- second reason, the future number of members will oblige us to extend the
field of qualified majority voting in order to avoid deadlocks. Furthermore,
the next members are all (except Poland and Turkey) small or medium sized-countries.
The risk of increased heterogeneity is real.
Of course, I can reassure you, the over-representation of the small states
will remain one the principles of the EU, which is, since the origin, partly,
a Union of states. But in order to improve the acceptance of the decisions,
a new balance has to be found, in a fair measure, between the size of the population
and the number of votes.
If you take figures reflecting the economic or financial weight of the member
states, the future gap between "small" and "large" countries, "payers" and "receivers",
will be even more significant. The present problem of legitimacy is rather going
to grow in the next decades than to be spontaneously resolved.
France supports a certain "reweighting" of votes without changing the present
rules. The Commission, as you know, could at the contrary go along with a dual
majority: to be adopted a law should get a majority of votes from a majority
of countries. Some countries have been supporting this second option (Germany
for example or Ireland), which presents the great advantage to be simple. But,
according to the French government - and I am personally convinced, it is true
- a dual majority could have negative effects in an enlarged EU: it permits
too easily negative coalitions of states, against a policy, without permitting
to build a positive majority.
As far as the "reweighting" is concerned, many proposals are on the table:
a qualified majority voting above 58% of the population (almost all the large
countries), or about 58% (status quo). Some small countries even want to put
it under 58% (until 50%), which seems absolutely unrealistic but may be tactical.
To sum it up, everything is still open.
Furthermore, this debate is taking place without stressing the future demographic
growth of the EU. At the present time, Germany's population is already 82 million,
France 60, Turkey 64. Within 20 years, Germany's population will be reduced
to 80 million, France will be up to 62, Turkey to 84. In 2050, Turkey is first
with 100 million, Germany has only 73 and France only 60. During the same period,
Italy could loose 20 million inhabitants! (according to UN figures). You might
disagree with such and such figure I give you, or argue that immigration is
going to change the balance of demography. I am ready to discuss this, but who
puts the long-term perspective in the discussion ?
What kind of solution should we prefer if we - France and Germany, but also
the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and all the other states which joined more than
a business club - if we want to keep a certain influence on the EU? Who is going
to be the beating heart of the new Union? Who is going to lead it, not in an
hegemonic way of course, but in the common interest? Until now, more or less,
France and Germany have prepared compromises acceptable by a large number of
partners, accepted by a large part of the total population (France and Germany
have together 140 million citizens). I know that such an approach can irritate
some partners but don't forget where the EU comes from ! The EEC was created
in order to prevent war between France and Germany. It is a political project,
based on an economic integration, not only a single market, not only a single
currency, not only a matter of business. That's the reason why it has to remain
a partnership between states which are considered as equal. I invite you to
read again the Mémoires of Jean Monnet who had a very interesting discussion
with Adenauer in April 1951. The two big men foresee the possible evolution
of both countries, France loosing its empire, Germany being unified. Both agree
on the idea of a permanent equal partnership, in order to show that the readiness
to cooperate is more important than the size or the power of each partner.
At the present stage of negotiations, the possible new weighting in favor of
Germany is considered in Paris as a political question. It is indeed for the
above mentioned reasons, linked to the spirit of the institutions, not for reasons
of prestige or national pride. France has perfectly accepted the difference
in the number of seats in the European Parliament. Such a change was logical
because in this assembly, the citizen are represented, not the states.
Moving to the third point, I must admit that it is as crucial as the two previous
Qualified Majority Voting
1.3. Let me indeed say a few words on the extension of the field of the QMV.
At the present time, about 70 articles still require unanimity. The aim of
the present discussion is to prevent deadlock, to facilitate the decision making
process. What is actually important in an EU with thirty members, i.e. with
a double number of internal political situations, a double number of coming
elections, to sum it up, a double number of democracies... It's not whether
or not such and such country is outvoted, but whether we can come to projects
without being blocked by one or two countries. See the status of the European
society needed by so many merging enterprises, blocked by a minority, or the
need for more fiscal harmonization.
It is very difficult to make a presentation of the present stage of the discussion.
A few months ago, I would have said that the goal of the French government was
to reverse the principle: majority voting as the rule, unanimity as exception.
It was actually the official message. Unfortunately, the more the discussion
goes on, the more the exceptions develop...To be honest, it is very difficult
to make an evaluation of the possible result of the IGC on this issue. I can
just try to fly over the articles and give you some examples: to be optimistic,
let us begin with a positive note. There is some progress in the social field
(article 42 on social security for workers f. ex), even if some countries are
still reluctant on such or such point (some could accept it for EU workers but
not for the ones coming from third states; others want to exclude students;
a third accepts it as long as child care isn't concerned etc.). Article 137
is also cut in slices. In France, we say "saucissonner": some could accept the
QMV on some paragraph (working conditions), others on other ones (non discrimination
between men and women), a third group on the whole but with a restriction...
As far as the third pillar is concerned (Part IV of the treaty, article 61 and
following), it is more complicated because of the time-table adopted in Amsterdam
(QMV is foreseen five years after the entry into force of the treaty). The decisions
adopted in Tampere during the autumn of 1999, have to be implemented. This field
is a sensitive one: in France: the constitution was modified in order to ratify
this treaty. In Amsterdam, the German Länder didn't accept the immediate QMV.
The possible package deal isn't clear yet; on taxes (art 93), in particular
on environmental taxes, the compromise is probably very difficult to find. It
is still considered as a problem to be solved at a political level, no more
at a technical level one.
- on article 133-5, dealing with the external competences in the field of services
and intellectual property, the very big issue of the new economy, the French
Presidency has made various constructive proposals in order to reach an agreement,
but has still some problems with some delegations such as... the French one.
France is not isolated, but, of course, the cohabitation doesn't help our heads
of government and state to be flexible. In this field, the solution might be
either a step-by-step approach or the introduction of a protocol to the treaty
putting some restrictions. On the articles on the cohesion, as expected, the
countries which benefit from the funds want to keep their control; the others
are more flexible. Even on the issue of non discrimination - the most politically
correct one - there is at this stage no agreement. Funny debate after the Court
of Justice took last winter the decision Tania Kreil, opening the way to the
Bundeswehr for women, against the prescriptions of the German constitution.
In all the discussion on QMV, some states seem to forget that if they don't
agree on their own, the judge will do it for them.
As you see, my colleagues are going to be very busy before Nice and in Nice.
I really enjoy to be a research fellow for a while...
More seriously, let uss move now to the two less problematic issues: enhanced
cooperation and article 7.
1.4. On enhanced cooperation, the discussion goes ahead. There is a certain
agreement between the states on the necessity of reforming the provisions of
the treaty, even if there are some differences on certain points:
- do we need a list of the fields of cooperation that are excluded (the single
market for example) or only a general sentence to make sure that a group of
states is not going to play against the interests of the whole Union?
- should the European Council remain the last body to be asked in case of disagreement
- do we need a minimum number of participating states ? If yes: eight or more,
or less ?
- what role the Commission has to play when an enhanced cooperation is launched?
- does the European Parliament has a say?
- what about the CFSP ?
A lot of questions remains open. Even though, according to many delegations,
an agreement seems possible. Is this the case because no one gives precise examples
of possible enhanced cooperations...?
1.5. The last point is not really easy to tackle: after the sanctions against
Austria at the beginning of the year 2000, which showed how difficult it is
to wait until the human rights are in danger to react, some states and the Commission
want to add a kind of early warning procedure in the treaty.
On the principle, some states are reluctant. Everybody remembers that some
countries involved in the sanctions, Denmark in particular, didn't share the
view of the majority. Other countries are reluctant because of the enlargement:
they think we give a wrong signal to them (UK).
I don't share this concern. The reform aims at preventing the very negative
effects of an ad hoc reaction (one could say "overreaction"). If we believe
that Europe is based on the respect of the rule of law, it is very important
to conceive procedures which allow an action inside the framework of the treaties
and, as I said above, prevent intergovernmental decisions. This might give the
concerned state the right to be listened to and to defend itself. For the majority
of states, the main issue is to determine who is able to act (Commission, EP,
a certain number of states)?
As a conclusion of this first part, I would like to add a few optimistic words.
As I said before, I speak for myself. I am not speaking on behalf of the French
Presidency or making some publicity for it. I personally and frankly believe
that some little progress has been made in the last weeks. Some proposals made
on such or such point have permitted a little move: look, for instance at the
Commission. The will to succeed in Nice is more present than a few months ago.
In September, the hypothesis of a positive crisis was not completely excluded,
in France and elsewhere. In my view, this is not more the case.
It does not seem that we are going to have a very good result in Nice. The
logic of Nice is the old one, perhaps the wise one of the "petits pas", the
step by step process. Last week, former Chancellor Kohl was in Paris. I had
the pleasure to meet him and was very impressed by his serenity, by his acceptance
of the step by step character of the negotiations. He sees the European integration
as a process, as a train which is now on the right way. From his point of view,
the speed of the train doesn't matter, as long as the direction is the right
one. Does it mean that we have to begin a new IGC as soon as Nice is ratified?
The present Chancellor Schröder has already mentioned the need for a new IGC
I don't want to leave you without giving you some food for thought on the future
institutional reform. Let us move to my very short second part.
II. Beyond the Treaty of Nice
As I just said, after the Nice treaty, we are going to have some more left-overs
rather than a new Union. It was probably impossible to avoid as nobody wanted
to delay the first coming memberships. How could we facilitate the birth of
a new EU?
My "programme" for the future would consist of five points:
1. We need a new procedure to reform European law. The IGCs have shown their
limits: if we go ahead with the same diplomatic methods, the same soft IGCs,
we should at least, recognize publicly that we won't never reach more clarity,
more transparence, more effectiveness. The result of diplomatic negotiations
has to be obscure, in order to allow nationalistic comments when the delegations
come back in their capitals. The compromises never correspond to the logic of
supranational institutions, or to the needs of the EU, as long as they are compromises
2. The new procedure should consist in starting a free debate on Europe in
the parliaments of all the member states and the candidates which want to do
so, and in the EP. Then, we would think about a coherent text, written by some
delegates of the executives, along with some members of the national parliaments
and the EP, experts and - why not ? - citizens (at least the associations or
NGOs could be invited to make comments or proposals).
The model of the Charter could be used again, or another similar one. We should
never accept to call constitution an ersatz of treaty, negotiated under the
What we need is a new kind of act, adopted with all the legitimate representatives
of the people, ratified within the framework of the EU, not in x national Parliaments,
frustrated because they can only "take it or leave it". With thirty members,
how long will the ratification process last ?
This revolution would be welcomed by the citizens. It would put an end to the
fight between Europe and the nations, instead of giving the false impression
of an EU built against the member states. If a vanguard appears, it will be
easier to let it be tolerated by the others. It would have to remain open.
3. We would keep the current institutional framework which remains adapted
to the nature of the EU, even if some reforms are necessary: as long as the
Union remains a Union of states and a Union of citizens, we need bodies like
the Council (representing the states), bodies like the EP (representing the
citizens) and a neutral, supranational team (the Commission). Of course, it
could be possible to improve the functioning of all of them: in creating a better
link between the EP and the voters, in creating supranational lists for this
election, in making the Commission more political, or in transforming the Council
of Ministers in a kind of second assembly (for some matters, the Council could
meet as a chamber of nations; in this case, the delegates of each state would
come from the national parliaments). The primacy of the European rules should
remain granted by the Court of Justice.
4. We should be ready to explain that enlargement is a big chance for all of
us, the best way to stabilize the continent, if .... we are ready to pay the
price for it: the institutional price, the financial price. Stability and success
depend on our solidarity and our readiness to play a real collective game. We
are not going to have a powerful Europe without putting in common the necessary
means...1,27% of the GDP is ridiculous if you think in terms of "worldwide"
power! As they say in America: Just do it!
5. We should take seriously the problem of keeping alive the cultural diversity
of the broad EU. The ones who think that millions of very different people could
do successfully together what they have to do, without knowing each other better,
without investing much more money in education, without developing the learning
of foreign languages, without integrating the cultural diversity in the conception
of institutions, make a huge mistake. When two companies merge, "human resources"
are one of the main concerns of the managers. That is the main reason why I
firmly believe that a possible new conference after Nice couldn't only deal
with the left-overs of the left-overs...