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The 2003/2004 Intergovernmental Conference

The main non-institutional questions

Reference to Christian values in the preamble

The Charter of Fundamental Rights

Economic governance

Defence policy

The budget procedure and financial perspectives

Revision of the Constitution


In addition to the institutional questions which have been the most vigorously discussed, the main amendments to the text of the Convention relate to the procedure for revising the Constitution , defence policy and the budget procedure .
Other issues have also been discussed at length but have not led to significant changes to the text, such as the reference to Judeo-Christian values in the Constitution's preamble or the Charter of Fundamental Rights .


The issue of the relevance of a reference to God or to Christianity (specifically, a reference to Christian or Judeo-Christian heritage, roots, tradition or values) in the preamble led to long discussions in the Convention . A consensus acceptable to all the members of the Convention was finally found - a reference to "cultural, religious and humanist heritage".

When the Italian Presidency , at the start of the IGC's work, asked all the delegations to present any suggestions on non-institutional aspects, the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the preamble was immediately suggested by seven governments. Other delegations were completely opposed to any reference of that kind and also called for the reference to dialogue with the churches to be removed. The delegations in favour of a reference to Judeo-Christian values finally accepted that it would not be included.
The two succeeding Presidencies failed to come up with an alternative wording.

The preamble on which the Heads of State and Government agreed takes up the wording proposed by the members of the Convention: "religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, democracy, equality, freedom and the rule of law".

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The Convention reached a consensus enabling the Charter of Fundamental Rights, solemnly proclaimed at the Nice European Council in December 2000, to be included in Part II of the Constitution. These fundamental rights were to be legally binding on the Union, its institutions, agencies and bodies and on the Member States, but only with regard to the implementation of EU law. The preamble to the Charter stated that the latter "will be interpreted with due regard to the explanations prepared at the instigation of the Praesidium of the Convention which drafted the Charter".

During the negotiations, certain delegations that had already called for the Charter to be omitted from the Constitution expressed their doubts once again.
Certain Member States proposed annexing a draft interpretative declaration to the Constitution to specify the jurisdictional reach of the Charter. The aim of this declaration would be to limit the Court of Justice's jurisdiction to legal acts based on fundamental rights already contained in the acquis communautaire while leaving it up to the national jurisdictions to monitor the legal application of the other fundamental rights not already the subject of secondary European legislation.

The Italian Presidency did not go along with this suggestion. It proposed that the paragraph in the preamble on the interpretative declaration should be made more precise by rewording it "the explanations updated by the Praesidium of the European Convention".

This wording was accepted by the Irish Presidency , which also included it in the article relating to the scope of the Charter. It then proposed moving the details of the "explanations of the Praesidium" to an annexed declaration.

The preamble to the Charter repeats and adds to the wording on "the explanations prepared at the instigation of the Praesidium of the Convention which drafted the Charter and updated under the responsibility of the Praesidium of the European Convention". This wording is also used in Article II-52 on the scope of the Charter. These comments are reproduced in a declaration annexed to the Treaty.
In fact, these technical explanations do not alter the content of the Charter. They do not in themselves have legal value but constitute a useful tool for interpreting the Charter. The latter remains legally binding on the Union, its institutions, agencies and bodies and on the Member States, but only with regard to the implementation of EU law.

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Overall, the Convention did not alter the division of responsibilities between the Union and the Member States when it comes to coordinating economic policies. It merely made a small number of changes to give more weight to the Commission in the implementation of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs) and the excessive deficit procedure.
In the governance of the euro zone, the Convention granted Member States whose currency is the euro the opportunity to agree, between themselves, certain measures concerning greater budgetary discipline or their common positions within international financial institutions and conferences.

The provisions put forward by the Convention for excessive deficits and the BEPGs were challenged by the informal Ecofin Council in Stresa (September 2003). It was suggested that, in the excessive deficit procedure, the Commission should just make recommendations, rather than proposals modifiable only by the Council on a unanimous basis.
The Commission and some of the delegations suggested, on the contrary, that the Commission's role in the coordination of economic policies be increased and that the Member States in the euro zone be given greater autonomy.

The main proposal of the Italian Presidency was that recommendations addressed to Member States which have adopted the euro under the multilateral surveillance procedure (including the stability pact and the measures relating to excessive deficits) should be adopted just by these States, not by the Ecofin Council covering all the Member States.
The Irish Presidency took this proposal on board, as well as that of the Ecofin Council concerning the procedure for defining an excessive deficit.

The scope of the innovations proposed by the Convention in the area of economic governance was significantly reduced by the IGC. In fact, in the excessive deficit procedure, the Commission now has only a power of recommendation, not of proposal, as is the case in the current treaties. However, its stepped-up role in monitoring respect for the BEPGs has been maintained.
The IGC has improved the EMU system by granting the Commission and States in the euro zone only the right to monitor observance of the conditions which Member States must comply with to be accepted in the zone. Moreover, the IGC annexed a declaration to the Treaty emphasising the importance of strict observance of the stability pact and calling on Member States to accumulate budget surpluses during periods of growth.

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The Convention has substantially fleshed out the provisions concerning security and defence policy, in particularly by enlarging the "Petersberg missions".
Although strictly prohibited in the EU Treaty, the possibility of enhanced cooperation in the field of security and defence was introduced by the members of the Convention. The Convention also put forward the option of closer cooperation, known as structured cooperation, for Member States wishing to take on more binding commitments.
It also introduced the possibility of closer cooperation for mutual defence .

The notion of structured cooperation, as proposed by the Convention, was problematic for the 'neutral' countries, which wanted all Member States to have their say in the event of cooperation of that kind being launched and preferred the mechanism to remain open to all. Certain Member States also expressed doubts regarding the mutual defence clause.

These provisions were examined in depth during the Italian Presidency , which proposed the creation of "permanent structured cooperation", the arrangements for which were closer to the general enhanced cooperation arrangements. It also suggested specifying that the authorisation to launch cooperation of this kind (or to join existing cooperation) would be granted by a European decision of the Council of Ministers voting unanimously (the text of the Convention did not specify this).

The Italian Presidency also suggested initially that the mutual defence clause be retained, but with a new wording. To counter the objections from neutral countries, it proposed specifying that mutual defence would not affect the specific nature of the security and defence policy of certain Member States. Later on, in the light of persistent opposition from certain delegations, it suggested removing entirely the possibility of basing closer mutual defence cooperation on structured cooperation.

An informal compromise on these defence-related issues was found at the end of the Italian Presidency. This has not been questioned, and the Irish Presidency was able to ratify it.

Mutual defence is no longer based on strengthened cooperation. From now on, the basis for this cooperation will be a petitio principii according to which all the Member States must afford a Member State which suffers an armed attack "all the military and other aid and assistance in their power". However, this obligation must not affect the specific nature of certain Member States' defence policy and must remain in line with the NATO obligations of those Member States belonging to that organisation.

The structured cooperation between those Member States committed to more binding military engagements has been kept and has even become "permanent". The arrangements have been changed, as the list of participating Member States can now no longer be annexed to the Constitution but must be established by a decision of the Council. A protocol annexed to the Treaty will henceforth establish the necessary military capacity for claiming enhanced cooperation.

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With regard to the budget procedure, the Convention gave more powers to the European Parliament, which now has the last word.
It also suggested that, starting in 2014, the establishment of the multiannual financial framework (the financial perspectives) should be a matter for the Council of Ministers deciding by qualified majority following adoption by the European Parliament. Finally, 'own resources' will continue to be subject to a decision of the Council voting unanimously, which must be approved by the national parliaments. However, the detailed arrangements may be established by the Council with a qualified majority.

The informal Ecofin Council in Stresa (September 2003) recommended cutting back the powers of the European Parliament, only taking its opinion when the annual budget is adopted. It also proposed maintaining unanimity for the multiannual financial framework.

The Italian Presidency decided not to adopt these proposals, which had triggered a wave of protests from the European Parliament and threatened the institutional balance with regard to budget procedures. It proposed a simple adjustment which would give more weight to the Council (option of throwing out a budget already approved by Parliament).

The Italian Presidency suggested a 'rendez-vous clause', in the light of certain delegations' concerns about the procedures for adopting the financial perspectives after 2013.

The Irish Presidency , for its part, proposed that the multiannual financial framework should continue to be decided unanimously and that the move towards qualified majority voting be decided by a 'passerelle clause', for the adoption of which the unanimity of the Council would be required. For the budget, the Irish Presidency suggested a procedure very similar to the codecision procedure.

The IGC amended the budget procedure as the Irish Presidency suggested. The arrangement now is that, if the conciliation committee does not reach agreement on a joint draft, a new draft budget is presented by the Commission.

The IGC accepted the Irish Presidency's solution for the multiannual financial framework: keeping unanimity for the adoption of the financial framework, together with a clause allowing a move to qualified majority voting by unanimous decision of the Council.

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The Convention proposed that the model of the European Convention be perpetuated so that any future amendments to the Constitution could also be prepared by such a body. The members of the Convention also stated that any amendments to the Constitutional Treaty, whatever their extent, should be approved by an IGC and ratified by all the Member States.

Many delegations considered this mechanism for amending the Treaty to be too unwieldy and called for a more flexible arrangement specific to the policies of the Union.
A flexible, simplified arrangement, supported by the Commission, was soon suggested.

The Italian Presidency suggested a 'lightweight' revision procedure for internal policy provisions only. Under this mechanism, the government of any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission could submit to the European Council proposals for amending the provisions in question. The Presidency initially suggested that the European Council's decision should be taken by qualified majority.
After the ministerial meeting in Naples , it chose a solution requiring unanimity.

The Irish Presidency also adopted this solution, suggesting just one small change: granting the European Parliament the right of approval during the simplified revision procedure.

The IGC introduced a simplified revision mechanism for policies and internal actions (title III of part III). It removed the obligation to hold an IGC and a Convention but still required approval by the Member States.
In the end, the IGC did not adopt the Irish Presidency's proposal to grant a right of approval to the European Parliament.

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Many other changes were made to the text of the Convention. They covered, in particular:

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