Artikel von Dr. Ingo Friedrich: "The German presidency of the EU – What impact on the future of the European Union?"
Germany is going to take over the rotating presidency of the EU on 1st of January 2007. Together with the following presidencies of Portugal and Slovenia, Germany forms a so-called trio-presidency. Nevertheless, most of the hopes concerning the future of the European constitution lie on the shoulders of the biggest country of the European Union. Germany is confronted with high and often unrealistic expectations.
The Presidency comes indeed at a difficult time for the EU – the constitutional process has come to a halt following the no-votes in France and the Netherlands. In several Member States European policy is more and more influenced by increasing scepticism towards Europe. There is an obvious feeling amongst European citizens that further EU enlargement can wait for a while. At the same time the EU must deal with the continuing threat of terrorism and difficult international problems such as the explosive situation in the Middle East, assure its energy supply and affront the challenges of globalization by modernizing its economies and by promoting high social and ecological standards to uprising powers such as China and India.
The German Presidency will include the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 2007. The Heads of State and Government will adopt a political declaration in Berlin designed to strengthen the EU's values and to explain a common vision of tomorrows Europe. The 50th anniversary will be an opportunity to celebrate, since the EU indeed is a unique success story of which we can all be proud. But this day should also be an opportunity to think ahead, to think about Europe's future and elaborate a common vision for the future of the EU. Besides explaining the achievements of the EU it is of utmost importance to make clear that European countries can only face the challenges of globalization via a strong and efficient Europe and the speaking with one European voice.
Strengthening confidence in the European project is closely linked to the fact of bringing Europe closer to its citizens as aimed at through "plan D" of the European Commission. We must take the fears of the people seriously. After the fundamental geopolitical changes due to the fall of the Iron Curtain, peace and stability will of course continue to be one of the most important reasons for the existence of the European integration project. But this can not be the only justification of the European Union: people expect European measures to have concrete advantages over national measures and want them have clearly explained. All in all our duty is to make life better and saver for our citizens in a globalised world.
This implies several measures in several key areas of European policy: most of all, it is our duty to explain to our people that the Member States cannot tackle the central future challenges alone but rather only within the EU framework. This requires efficient institutions, a clear division of competences and the democratic legitimacy. A strong and dynamic economy is as important as internal security. Stabilizing our neighborhood by a good neighborhood-policy and a common strategy to combat illegal migration strengthens peace and stability in Europe and outside. Europe has to define its global role and accept its responsibility in the world. It is our responsibility to spread peace, freedom and security allover the world. By investing in sustainable development, environmental and climate protection, we serve as a good example to uprising countries. To secure energy supply for Europe is one of the main aims of the six upcoming months and further on.
Regarding the constitutional process, one can not expect wonders from the German presidency. Germany has already declared that it will act like a moderator in the constitutional process. Berlin will listen, consult, mediate and make an appropriate proposal at the right time. Its commitment to the European constitution is clear: Germany at minimum wants to retain its political substance.
The European Parliament declared in a recent report on the absorption capacity of the EU, which should be more defined as integration capacity, that there should be a constitutional solution for the EU before the next elections to the European Parliament in 2009. Germany will present a road map on how to proceed with the constitution during its presidency. Germany's ambassador to the EU, Wilhelm Schönfelder, recently declared that there could be a possibility to renegotiate the EU constitution at the end of next year.
The timeframe for a solution nevertheless is very short: in order to ratify a possible text before the next elections, there should be a decision under the Portuguese presidency, already with the new French president on board. The ratification process in the member states would then take place in the following year. Germany seems to be against a new convention: Berlin has already nominated two secretaries of state to explore the positions of the other member states. Everything is still open and options and opinions are currently compared and exchanged. Personally, I think the European Parliament definitely should be involved in this process. In order to take away the fear the word constitution inspires in some member countries it could also help to change the name of the constitution for example to "Elementary treaty of the European Union".
Being Member of the European Parliament since its first direct election in 1979, I have been able to observe already several German presidencies out of the all in all 12 presidencies. Each time, there has been one specific target which in the end has been more or less been realised. This time the biggest task is to bring the European Union closer to its citizens and to make understand that the EU is the only way to give an effective answer to the challenges of globalisation. Europe itself has to adapt its policies to the challenges of globalisation by reducing bureaucracy, supporting innovation and research, promoting European economy and strengthening its global role. The German presidency is surely going to give impulses for all these reforms. I am convinced that better, more efficient policies can help to create more confidence in the European integration project and that people and politicians realise that Europe is the best answer to globalisation. In this sense I hope that the German presidency is going to be a success!