The Baltic Course  

Giscard’s Convention: a serious threat to the EU stability

By Inna Rogatchi

The EU Convention lead by Valery Giscard d’Estaing is bringing new surprises both to the EU member states and candidate countries. Now when after 16 months the work of the Convention is over it has become even more evident.

Photo: A.F.I.

Mr. Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

What is most amazing that even in the eyes of the officials working in the EU Commission, it was a very serious challenge to the very principles of democracy and equality which the Convention was trying so hard to push forward. One of the proposals, for instance, included a funny system of vote in the coming elections of the EU president. Giscard d’Estaing proposed to reach a principle of  “European majority” that would not take into account voting results in separate countries. Even a child could realize that election’ result conducted in 1,2 million Estonia would be difficult to compare with vote conducted in 80 million Germany. But who cares about small countries’ interests in the EU any more? Asks a Finnish representative in the Convention Esko Helle. He concluded the “democracy had nothing to do with this idea”. Some other experts went further on saying that such proposal was an expression of a clear disregard of the other peoples’ rights, and one more vivid example France arrogance in politics.

President of the convention has prepared for the EU member states another new suggestions as if his concern is for others not to be bored with a balanced and fair discussion in the convention. At one of the sessions Giscard was suggesting a proposal in favor of two presidents to oversee the Union. One who would head the European Council, which represents the EU’ national governments, and one at the European Commission, the Union’s executive arm in Brussels. The EU Commission will be cut in size and that its president, presently Romano Prodi nominated by the member states by mutual accord, would be replaced with the elected one “by the majority of the whole-European vote”. Commission’s president mandate will be for five years.

But how the former French president (presently convention’s president) and a very close friend to the present French leader Jaque Chirac suggested to cut off the Commission? It’s not a big deal and very simple, i.e. this EU institution did not need commissioners from all the EU member states! The reduction would be performed by the same principle that was recently successfully introduced in the Central European Bank – to deprive small countries of their right to be represented by a commissioner in the EU’s Commission. 

Giscard wanted at the same time to get rid of the current principle concerning the EU Council’s rotating presidency by all EU member states. It would mean the end of the principle of equality in the EU, and will make it an Orwellian octopus with the head at the Champs d’ Elysees. But it is not what the rest of Europe would agree on.

According to different countries’ representatives working in the Convention, “Giscard d’Estaing problem is such that he acts as if he does not hear or see any of us, representatives of our countries for taking part in Convention work. We have made more than 1500 changes and corrections in the initial EU constitution’s draft proposed by Giscard. But they have not been included in the new documents’ drafts. He behaves as if we all are designated to promote the ideas and wishes of France, but we are not! “ a Dannish MEPs Jens-Peter Bonde expressed the opinion of many European MEPs, EU officials and members of the Convention. All those who sharply disagree with Giscard’s line and see it deeply unfair and counterproductive.

Out of three leading EU countries, Germany has many grounds to support the French proposals. One of it is an idea to promote present German Foreign Minister Joshka Fisher to a new position as the EU would be foreign minister (or so called “super-foreign minister”). The position that intends to combine two existing posts , that of Christopher Patten,  the EU Commissioner for External Relations, and Xavier Solana, the one responsible for the EU’s Defense and Security Policy. Mr. Patten, in fact, intends to resign and become a president of the Oxford University. Joint compromise between Germany and France, and some of their minor allies Belgium and Luxembourg, produced a feasible result, i.e. the proposal to promote Mr. Fisher to the new position of the EU’s foreign minister. The campaign to move on this plan has already started at the top level of the EU.

The third big EU’s country, the United Kingdom, is not participating so enthusiastically in the French-German ‘coup’ within the EU. The British were showing quite cautious and much more reasonable approach towards the attempts to split EU into the “class society”. However, the latest chain of Giscar’s initiatives has made patient British leaders quite worried. Recently the new and powerful organization has been established there, to start organized resistance to the current EU policies, and most importantly, to try to prevent its dangerous tendencies. The organization includes both politicians and businessmen, with representatives from the highest level of all-political parties, MPs and financial figures. The leader of the new movement is Lord Saatchi, Conservative Party Shadow Treasure Secretary. No surprise that the movement is enormously popular, and getting more and more active members every day, both influential figures and ordinary citizens who would like to live in a reasonable and free Europe, not under Franco-German dominance. Experts believe that more organizations of that sort would appear in many other European countries, especially those which all of the sudden have found themselves being placed at the edge of active position in the EU. But a major question remains, would the EU enlargement proceed according to democracy and  stability principles, or “French-line” would persist.