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Les deux secrétaires d’État aux Affaires Etrangères d’Allemagne et de France viennent de présenter - avec beaucoup de publicité - un rapport d’experts indépendants intitulé : « Sailing on high seas : reforming and enlarging the EU for the 21st Century (Paris-Berlin 2023) » (1) Les experts concernés sont principalement des universitaires et/ou des chercheurs - à l’exclusion, semble-t-il, de praticiens des Institutions (membres ou fonctionnaires). Le rapport traite de la problématique renforcement/élargissement de l’UE et vient donc s’ajouter à d’autres documents plus officiels sur le sujet - tels que les projets de rapport à l’examen du Parlement Européen et de l’Assemblée Nationale, moins médiatisés. De facture assez classique, il propose toutefois quelques réformes assez audacieuses dans les structures et le fonctionnement des Institutions. Il est moins inventif pour ce qui concerne la gestion du processus d’élargissement. On peut regretter une lacune et une imprécision :

  • le volet du renforcement des compétences et politiques communes de l’Union gagnerait à être développé et précisé (voir le rapport du PE) (2),

  • il n’est pas clairement établi que le renforcement de l’UE (d’ici 2030) est un préalable et une pré-condition à toute nouvelle adhésion (voir le rapport de l’AN) (3).

Pour faire simple, nous reprenons ici les « Main Recommandations » du rapport (p. 8 à 10) en les assortissant de quelques remarques (en rouge dans le texte) qu’inspire une première lecture du texte.

NB: Il ne semble pas exister de version française à ce jour Jean-Guy Giraud 25 - 09 - 2023

Main Recommendations

I. Better protect a fundamental principle: the rule of law

Budgetary conditionality

  • make the rule of law conditionality mechanism an instrument to sanction breaches of the rule of law and, more generally, systematic breaches of the European values enshrined in Article 2 TEU

  • if no agreement: extend the scope of budgetary conditionality to other behaviours detrimental to the EU budget

  • introduce conditionality, similar to NGEU, for future funds

Fraud, corruption, conflict of interest, … should be more clearly/directly/generally incorporated in the budget conditionality instrument for all categories of EU funds

Refine the Article 7 TEU procedure

  • replace unanimity minus 1 by a majority of four-fifths at the EUCO

  • reinforce the automaticity of the response by including time limits to force the Council and the EUCO to take a position when the procedure is triggered

  • automatic sanctions five years after a proposal to trigger the procedure

Art. 7 sanctions could be decided by ECJ (ie. AFCO proposal) - or ECJ could be explicitly empowered to judge on legality of EUCO sanctions

II. Addressing institutional challenges: five key areas of reform 1. Making the EU institutions enlargement-ready

The European Parliament

  • sticking with the limit of 751 or fewer MEPs

  • adoption of a new system for seat allocation, based on the Cambridge formula

Keep it simple

The Council of the EU

  • trio format extended to a quintet of presidencies, each spanning half of an institutional cycle

Keep it simple

The Commission

  • decisions on the size and organisation of the College: option 1: reducing the size of the College (Article 17(5) TEU) NO - but strengthen independence of individual commissioners option 2: differentiation between ‘Lead Commissioners’ and ‘Commissioners’, with potentially only the ‘Lead Commissioners’ voting in the College

Keep it simple/flexible

Leave it to the President to designate members, to organise portfolios, proceedings, voting procedure, ...

2. Decision-making in the Council

Generalisation of QMV

  • before the next enlargement, transfer all remaining ‘policy’ decisions from unanimity to QMV. Except for foreign, security and defence, Ordinary Legislative Procedure applies

  • if no agreement: create of three linked packages forming the basis of a transition towards QMV: 1. Enlargement and the rule of law; 2. Foreign policy and defence; 3. Fiscal and tax policy QMV in budgetary matters (including OR) as a fundamental and non negotiable priority

Making more QMV acceptable

  • creation of a ‘sovereignty safety net’ inspired by Article 31(2) TUE No : art. 31§2 is a veto power - unless EUCO rules by QMV

  • calculation of QMV voting shares rebalanced: 65/55 to 60/60

  • opt-out for policy areas transferred to QMV

No : opt-outs should be kept exceptional

3. EU-level democracy

The harmonisation of EU electoral laws

  • harmonisation of the conditions under which the EP elections take place, at least for 2029

The appointment of the Commission President

  • the EUCO and the EP need to agree before the next EP elections on how to appoint the Commission President: interinstitutional agreement (IIA) or, second best, a political agreement

Participatory democracy

  • existing participatory instruments need to be tied more closely to EU decision-making

  • citizens’ panels institutionalised with high visibility to accompany major choices

  • participatory instruments employed to prepare for enlargement

EU wide referendum should be envisaged (ref. AFCO proposal)

Probity, transparency, and the fight against corruption

  • new independent Office for Transparency and Probity (OTP) in charge of monitoring the activities of all the actors working within the EU institutions or for them

Not necessary considering existing monitors (ECJ, Ombudsman, OEP, OLAF,…)

4. Powers and competences

  • strengthen provisions on how to deal with unforeseen developments, competency-wise, and better inclusion of the EP (Article 122 and 352 TFEU) Yes, with QMV voting

  • create a ‘Joint Chamber of the Highest Courts and Tribunals of the EU’ (non-binding dialogue between European and Member States’ courts) Not necessary - informal networks exist

5. EU resources

  • increase the EU budget in the coming budgetary period both in nominal size and in relation to GDP In relation to GDP and population variations ?

  • new own resources to limit tax optimisation, avoidance and competition within the EU New own ressources directly collected by EU

  • budget decisions moved towards QMV for spending. If not possible: more enhanced cooperation between smaller groups of Member States to finance policies together Keep it simple and within the general budget

  • establish a thorough spending review to reduce the size of some spending areas and to increase others

  • enable the EU to issue common debt in the future More emphasis necessary on this crucial point

  • each institutional cycle (EP term) sets a new MFF (five years)

III. How to manage progress: Deepening and widening the EU 1. Six options for Treaty change

  • 1: Article 48(6) TEU (Convention and IGC) YES - Treaty reform as a pre-condition (political and chronological) to any accession treaty

  • 2: if no agreement: ‘simplified revision procedure’ (IGC only)

  • 3: reform as part of the accession treaties modifying the founding treaties (Art 49 TEU) NO

  • 4: Member States draft a ‘framework enlargement and reform treaty’ containing all the changes needed for the EU's functioning in the future, decoupled from accession treaties NO

  • 5: involvement of a Convention in the drafting of the ‘framework enlargement and reform treaty’ NO

  • 6: if deadlock: ‘supplementary reform treaty’ between willing Member States NO need : reinforced cooperation within EU Treaty made more flexible will do

2. Differentiation

Principles for differentiation within the EU

  • use of existing flexibility instruments under five principles: 1. Respect for the acquis communautaire and the integrity of the EU’s policies and actions; 2. Use of the EU institutions; 3. Openness to all EU members; 4. Sharing decision-making powers, costs, and benefits; 5. Make sure the willing can move ahead

Use of differentiation in the framework of treaty revisions

  • uncooperative/unwilling state(s) offered opt-outs in the new treaty, but no exemptions from the existing acquis communautaire or EU core values Limit scope and duration of opt-outs which must be kept exceptional

United in diversity in Europe

  • envision the future of European integration as four distinct tiers: 1. The inner circle; 2. The EU; 3. Associate members; 4. The EPC No such formal categories - keep it as simple and unified as possible

3. Managing the enlargement process

  • set the goal for the EU to be ready for enlargement by 2030; candidate countries should work to fulfil all accession criteria by then NO. Set the goal for (ratified)Treaty reform by 2030 - enlargement treaties to follow according to merit

  • the new political leadership after the EU elections in 2024 should commit to the goal of 2030 and agree how to make the EU enlargement ready by then

  • break down the accession rounds into smaller groups of countries (‘regatta’)

  • Nine principles that should guide future enlargement strategies: − on the qualification for accession: 1. ‘Fundamentals first’; 2. Geopolitical; 3. Conflict resolution; 4. Additional technical and financial support; 5. Democratic legitimacy - on the dynamic of the accession procedure: 1. Equality; 2. Systematisation; 3. Reversibility; 4. QMV


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