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Brussels, 14 July 2000

A Basic Treaty for the European Union: additional contribution to the Intergovernmental Conference

The Commission approved a communication on the reorganisation of the European Treaties. It follows up the report which the European University Institute in Florence presented to the Commission on 15 May last. While keeping an open mind on the choices made by the Florence Institute, the Commission believes that the Intergovernmental Conference should lay down a timetable and procedural arrangements for embarking on this work without interfering with the current enlargement process.

Simplifying the treaties

Ever since the Paris Treaty of 18 April 1951 establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, Europe has been constantly evolving, and four successive enlargements have raised the number of Member States from six to fifteen. The treaties, however, the fruit of fifty years of European integration, form a complex and not very coherent whole and are becoming less easy to read and to understand. The Amsterdam Treaty went some way towards simplifying the treaties by repealing and deleting provisions which had lapsed or were obsolete and by renumbering the articles in the treaties, but the result is still complex and mixes provisions of differing importance.

The Commission believes that a genuine reorganisation of the Treaties would provide the Union with basic instruments which reflect as clearly and accurately as possible the balances on which European integration is based. It should be noted in this connection that the Commission remains non-committal on the issue of simplifying the procedures for amending the treaties, since reorganisation of the treaties is justified regardless of any changes in the amendment procedure. It could also have synergy effects with other discussions on the future development of the Union.

The report of the Florence Institute

At the request of the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, and Michel Barnier, the Commissioner responsible ad personam for the reform of the institutions, the Robert Schuman Centre of the European University Institute in Florence examined the legal feasibility of reorganising the treaties.

The Institute drafted a "Basic Treaty of the European Union"(1) which combines in under one hundred articles the provisions relating to the institutional framework and operation of the Union and the objectives of the Union policies.

The Florence Institute endeavoured to work with the law as it stands, i.e. without amending the existing legal and institutional situation. It proposes replacing the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty as amended by the Amsterdam Treaty) by the Basic Treaty of the European Union. This Treaty contains all of what are considered the fundamental provisions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, set out in logical order.

In this draft, the provisions on the common foreign and security policy and on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters are contained in two protocols attached to the Basic Treaty. It is proposed that the Treaty establishing the European Community, without the provisions transferred to the Basic Treaty, remain in existence.

For a Basic Treaty of the European Union

Without commenting on the choices made by the Florence Institute, the Commission broadly supports the objective of producing a reorganised Treaty based on the law as it stands. The Commission also believes that the operation should include making minor adjustments to improve the quality of the texts, but without altering their overall balance. The possibility of extending the operation to all primary legislation should not be ruled out, so as to encompass the accession treaties and the annexed protocols.

There appears to be no realistic possibility of concluding this work in the course of 2000. The Commission recommends, however, that the Intergovernmental Conference lay down a procedure and a timetable for the future work on recasting the treaties.

(1) The report was produced by a group of internationally renowned law professors, representing various nationalities and legal cultures. The work was coordinated by Yves Mény, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre of the European University Institute, and Claus Dieter Ehlermann, a professor in the Institute. It can be consulted on HYPERLINK ""

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