Brussels, 10 May 2006
The Commission has today adopted an ambitious policy agenda for Europe’s citizens. This is the Commission’s contribution to the June European Council, picking up the messages the Commission has received from Plan D and the national debates during the period of reflection called by Europe’s leaders last year. It is time to match dialogue with delivery.
“Today is a milestone for my Commission. Over the last eighteen months we have successfully addressed many of the issues that were deadlocked when I took office. Today, we are adopting an ambitious, policy driven agenda for citizens. That requires a concerted effort by member states and the EU institutions alike. There must be renewed commitment to Europe. The way to strengthen public confidence in Europe is through results. That is the way to create the conditions to deliver an institutional settlement”, said José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.
“With this agenda, we demonstrate that we have listened to citizens. Citizens want to have their say. They look for European leadership; even if they have mixed feelings about membership in the EU or the way the Union works. They trust the European Union on policy delivery", said Margot Wallström, Vice-President for institutional relations and communication strategy.
The Commission’s agenda is rooted in the strategic objectives of prosperity, solidarity and security, with the continued focus on jobs and growth. But, as the debate on Europe shows, there is a gap between the action Europe takes and the public’s perception of Europe’s role. To regain the confidence of the public, the Commission will harness all its resources, both internally and externally, to deliver solutions to the issues raised by citizens. This is a policy response centred around a citizens’ agenda.
The Commission sets out twelve policy initiatives to deliver a Europe of results. Amongst the concrete proposals are:
On further enlargement, the Commission confirms its existing commitments and will step up its engagement in the debate on the pace and scope of enlargement. The Commission will shortly publish a strategic paper on the Union’s external relations and later this year launch a debate on the external consequences for the Union of further globalisation. The Commission also calls for a further effort to be made to use the existing treaties and proposes a number of concrete initiatives to enhance partnership, including bringing forward new proposals to cut red tape, and through improving transparency, including a strengthened relationship with national Parliaments.
On institutional issues, the Commission proposes that the June European Council should endorse a step by step approach, with as a first step Europe’s leaders adopting a new political declaration, and commitment in 2007, 50 years after the signature of the Treaty of Rome. This declaration should then serve as the basis for decisions by the European Council to launch a process designed to lead to a future institutional settlement. A further “rendezvous” step will come in 2008/2009 when the Commission reports on the future financing of the Union.
Following the negative referenda in France and the Netherlands, Europe’s leaders met at the European Council in June 2005 to discuss the next steps on the Constitutional Treaty. Heads of State and Government adopted a declaration on “the ratification of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”. This declaration called for a “period of reflection” following the negative votes in France and the Netherlands. The declaration called for a broad debate to take place in each country and indicated that the European institutions should make their contribution, with the Commission playing a special role in this regard.
The Commission adopted a contribution to the period of reflection and beyond on 13 October 2005 (COM (2005) 494). This set out thirteen initiatives to be taken at the Community level in addition to assisting Member States with the national debates. This paper also included a feedback process with a commitment to a Special Eurobarometer on the Future of Europe and a document providing an overall synopsis of the national visits and debates organised throughout the Union.
At the start of the Austrian Presidency, Chancellor Schüssel invited the Commission to present its ideas for the debate by Heads of State and Government. The Commission contribution adopted today responses to these commitments and requests.
The latest Eurobarometer opinion poll published on 5 May 2006 which shows a strong wish by Europe’s citizens for more EU action in many areas. It also demonstrates the main preoccupations of citizens such as unemployment, security, accountability of the institutions and further enlargement. This synopsis of public opinion and the national debates forms the starting point for the Commission’s thinking.
A fuller description of the Commission’s assessment of the national debates and its activities under Plan D are outlined in an accompanying communication “Communication on Plan D and the period of reflection”, COM (2006) 212, 10 May 2006.