Prospects for the Convention on the Future of Europe
John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland and now a member of the Praesidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe, discussed the context, background, and prospects for this new draft constitution for Europe. After drawing some comparisons with the U.S. Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787, he went on to discuss the background of the U.S. role in supporting European integration and the evolution of the European Economic Community into the European Union and its current efforts to create an overarching constitution for the Union which is on the verge of expanding from 15 to 25 members.
In looking at what factors were necessary for the convention to be a success, he identified basically three. He said that within the next month governments must give clear instructions to their representatives attending the convention to authorize them to make decisions on the critical issues that have been discussed now for several months. Secondly, the convention must take steps to help its citizens see a benefit to a further consolidation of the European Union, and he thought that these could particularly be in taking steps in a European battle against organized crime and terrorism. Thirdly, he felt the convention must take important steps toward creating a European political identity; in particular, he felt that the European Union should have a personal identification through the direct election of a president who would be a spokesperson for European values and institutions and also that the European Union should have a legal identity.
Bruton also listed four principal risks facing the convention. By consolidating the current set of institutions and processes, it could risk the fossilization of Europe in its current form and thereby eradicate the principle of "ever-closer Union." Secondly, it could change the balance of power to undermine the role of the Commission, currently the sole source of legislative initiatives and the point at which individual national interests are sublimated to the common good of the European members. Thirdly, it could fail to provide the economic leadership which would stimulate economic development. Finally, it could leave underdeveloped the Common Foreign and Security Policy which would continue to give Europe the reputation of an economic powerhouse without an equivalent political dimension.
He concluded by saying that the largest problem area was the inability of the European Union to raise revenue by borrowing or imposing taxes. For the Union to become truly effective, it must confront this question, an issue that is not currently before the Convention.
The full text of John Bruton's speech is available on the Woodrow Wilson Center's web site.