More than 150 members of the European Parliament and EU national parliaments gathered in Brussels on Monday to discuss the future of Europe.
The meeting, jointly organized by the European Parliament and the German Bundestag and co-chaired by their Presidents, will contribute to the work of the 21-22 June European Council meeting on institutional reforms. At the opening of the meeting, EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering, said: „The national parliaments and the EP are not in competition: we are partners supporting parliamentary democracy”.
German Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, who co-chaired the opening session with the EP President, called for a strengthening of the role of the EP and of national parliaments. „Nobody has a stronger interest in seeing that the role of the parliaments is properly reflected in the new treaty than parliaments themselves”, he said. The co-chairs agreed on the need to save the substance of the draft constitution, and also commented briefly on a proposal to grant the right of legislative initiative to national parliaments.
President Pöttering said: „The right of initiative for national parliaments to oblige the European Commission to act is a very positive way to proceed.” President Lammert agreed on the idea of involving national parliaments more extensively in the EU decision-making process, but explained: „some right of initiative would be appropriate (...) but without granting new vetoes”. A failure of the June summit to agree on the reforms could provoke „a two speed Europe, which would mean a failure for three generations” warned the guest speaker at the opening session, Italian Minister of the Interior and former Convention vice-chair Giuliano Amato.
As at previous similar gatherings in May and December 2006, after the opening of the meeting, participants split up into three working groups. The issues to be addressed, in working parties and in plenary, will include: „the new challenges for the EU, especially climate change and energy security”, „architecture and substance of a future Treaty” and „the role of national parliaments in the reform process”. The three working groups will report back to Tuesday's plenary session, which will also look at the wider questions of Europe's institutional future. (EP Press)