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IP/07/1044

Brussels, 10 July 2007

Reforming Europe for the 21st Century: Commission adopts its formal opinion before the Intergovernmental Conference

The European Commission has today issued its formal opinion before the opening of the Intergovernmental Conference. Entitled "Reforming Europe for the 21st Century" the Commission opinion looks at how a Reform Treaty respecting the mandate agreed at the last European Council will answer the strategic political demands facing Europe today. The Commission opinion sets out the benefits that a Reform Treaty will bring to citizens. The Commission welcomes the convocation of the Intergovernmental Conference and underlines that Europe needs a Reform Treaty to be agreed and ratified ahead of the June 2009 European elections.

President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, said: “The agreement reached at the last European Council gives a clear and precise mandate for our work. But a mandate is not a Treaty. We now need to maintain the momentum and make sure we have the Reform Treaty as quickly as possible. We must grasp the chance to deliver change. We also need to be vigilant that all of the innovations and gains contained in the IGC mandate are translated into treaty language. There is a strong political consensus that the scope and content of the IGC mandate should be respected and not re-opened. This is firmly the view of the Commission".

Margot Wallström, Vice President for institutional relations and communication strategy said: "The Reform Treaty policy innovations – on energy, immigration, climate change and security – are a welcome response to what European citizens expect from the EU. The new Treaty will also improve how democracy and transparency work in the EU. The Council will deliberate in public; the European Parliament's role will be strengthened. The citizenship initiative will allow for the first time for participatory democracy at EU level. Involvement of National parliaments means more influence and more visibility for European issues in national political debates."

The Commission opinion states that the test for Europe is the delivery of policies which meet the expectations and aspirations of citizens: a vision of a Europe ready to work together to realise a common future. To realise its potential, the European Union needs modernisation and reform.

The Commission believes that the IGC mandate agreed at the European Council on 21-22 June 2007 balances political realism with ambition and will leave the European Union with a sound institutional and political basis to meet the ambitions of its citizens. The IGC mandate provides the right basis for a swift and efficient Intergovernmental Conference able to agree a treaty for early ratification.

The Commission opinion highlights the improvements that a Reform Treaty following this mandate will bring the European Union and its citizens:

- A more democratic and transparent Europe with a strengthened role for the European and national Parliaments; greater openness in the Council; allowing one million citizens to call on the Commission to bring forward an initiative of interest to them and a clearer sense of who does what at the European and national levels.

- A more effective Europe with institutions and working methods which are effective and streamlined. The Commission opinion sets out how the Reform Treaty will provide modern institutions that work in a Union of 27 with quicker decision-making; improved ability to act in areas of major priority for today's Union; simplified and fairer voting rules and streamlined institutions.

- A Europe of rights and values, solidarity and security with clarity on the Union's values and objectives; a Charter of Fundamental Rights bringing together civil, political, economic and social rights which the Union must respect; reinforced solidarity and security in areas like energy policy; climate change, civil protection humanitarian aid and public health and an extension of the Union's capacity to act in freedom, security and justice.

- Europe as an actor on the global stage by bringing together Europe's external policy tools, both in policy development and policy delivery. The Reform treaty will give Europe a clear voice in relations with partners worldwide; bring more coherence between the different strands of EU external policy with a new institutional architecture and harness Europe's economic, political and diplomatic strengthens to promote European interests and values worldwide.

The Commission opinion concludes that such a Reform Treaty will give the Union the capacity to deliver change, to make Europeans more secure and prosperous, to open up their opportunities to shape globalisation. The Commission calls on all participants in the Intergovernmental Conference to create the conditions for agreement and ratification of the Reform Treaty ahead of the June 2009 European elections.

Background

At the European Council of 21-22 June 2007, the Heads of State and Government agreed to call an Intergovernmental Conference. A mandate was agreed with a precise remit to draw up a Reform Treaty to amend the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community.

Before the start of an Intergovernmental Conference, the Commission delivers a formal opinion in conformity with Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union.

The Portuguese Presidency has announced that it intends to open the Intergovernmental Conference at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 23-24 July 2007.

Questions and Answers on the IGC mandate for a Reform Treaty can be found in MEMO/07/283 and information on the procedural aspects of an Intergovernmental Conference can be found in MEMO/07/284.


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