Dáil Éireann - Volume 569 - 26 June, 2003
Written Answers. - European Integration.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
78. Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government's view of a European Constitution is that it is an important step to a unitary European State; and, if so, the reason the Government did not inform the Irish people in this regard. [18152/03]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): At the recent meeting of the European Council in Thessaloniki, the President of the European Convention, Mr Valéry Giscard dEstaing, presented the Heads of State and Government of the Union's member states with the Convention's Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The convention will now undertake some further technical work before completing its task on 10 July.
The European Council welcomed the Convention's draft as “a good basis for starting in the Intergovernmental Conference” which will begin its work in the autumn. It will be for the conference, acting unanimously, to decide on the new treaty's final contents. While there are some issues where it believes further work remains to be done, the Government regards the Convention's draft as positive and as representing significant progress towards making the union, its institutions and its working arrangements more easily understood and accessible to citizens.
It does not, in any sense, represent a step towards a “unitary European State.” Key principles underpinning the Union's work – conferral, subsidiarity and proportionality – are strengthened and made clearer. For example, it is explicitly stated for the first time that competences, or powers, not conferred on the Union remain with the member states. A greater effort is made to set out more clearly the areas in which the Union can act. The balance between the Union and the member states is maintained, and no significant new area of activity is created for the Union.
The role of national parliaments, in particular in overseeing implementation of the principle of subsidiarity, is strengthened. The proposals for the Union's institutions respect the principle of equality between member states regarding membership of the Commission and the Presidency of formations of the Council of Ministers. These are welcome developments which the Government fully supports. I also very much welcome the extensive public debate that has taken place throughout the progress of the convention's work, in the Oireachtas, especially within the Joint Committee on European Affairs, in the National Forum on Europe and elsewhere. I hope that this will continue as the work of the Intergovernmental Conference proceeds.
Dáil Éireann 569 Written Answers. European Integration.