European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering has welcomed the result of the EU summit as an important step towards the necessary reform of the EU.
An agreement, he said, had been reached after long and difficult negotiations and it had been possible to avoid a crisis in the EU. Other MEPs with leading roles on the institutional reform issue gave a similarly positive reaction. Pöttering expressed his gratitude to Chancellor Angela Merkel, as President of the European Council, who played the crucial role in making this agreement possible. He said: "This compromise makes possible the reforms necessary for more democracy and efficiency in the EU. On this basis, the new Treaty will reinforce significantly the European Parliament and thereby enhance democracy in the EU.
The fundamental rights which the European Parliament has always defended as a core element of the Constitutional Treaty will become legally binding. The main principles defended by the European Parliament will become a reality with this treaty reform. The German Presidency has been successful in reaching a compromise in an extremely difficult situation. Despite all the difficulties, the EU has proved its political will to face together the challenges of the future." Pöttering said that he regrets that the introduction of double-majority voting in the Council has been postponed, even if this was inevitable part of reaching a compromise.
On the positive side, he welcomes the fact that the European Parliament will have three representatives at the Intergovernmental Conference and that the agreed timetable provides for ratification of the new Treaty before the European elections in 2009. The EP President also commented that the excellent cooperation between the Presidency of the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission in recent months, with a view to reaching a positive outcome on the new Treaty, had been a positive political experience.
Jo Leinen, Elmar Brok and Enrique Barón Crespo on the proposed reform treaty
Constitutional Affairs Committee Chair Jo Leinen (Germany) stressed that main parts of the Constitutional Treaty had been preserved. He listed "overcoming the pillar structure, the use of qualified majority voting as a rule, strengthening the role of the European Parliament as well as of national parliaments, the binding character of the Charter of fundamental rights and a stronger role for the EU in foreign policy" as examples. Parliament co-rapporteur Elmar Brok (Germany) also mentioned the introduction a single legal personality for the EU. Enrique Barón Crespo (Spain), the other co-rapporteur, said: "We must welcome the very fact that there is an agreement. This represents a positive step."
He was also pleased with the inclusion of an energy policy and the fight against climate change as objectives of the Union. However, he added: "We need to look very carefully at some important issues included in the agreement, such as the Charter and the provisions on legislative powers." Brok said that "a reform of the EU towards more efficiency, democracy and civil rights has been made possible, even though the introduction of the double majority has been postponed," Brok said. Leinen added that "some sacrifices had to be made to achieve consensus among the Member States, which resulted not only the postponement of the new voting system in Council until 2017, but also in the opt-out granted to the UK in foreign policy."
Brok too praised German chancellor and Council president Angela Merkel, who, he said, had made European reform possible due to her persistence and consistency. Now the Inter-Governmental Conference should take shape in a positive and forward-looking manner, he said. He hoped that all Member States would cooperate in a constructive way. Barón also congratulated the German Presidency for "having played a decisive role", but, he added, "the role of the so-called "friends of the constitution" has also been very important." He criticised the European Council for its lack of transparency. The Constitutional Affairs Committee will debate on Monday a draft report by Leinen on the EU reforms agreed on Saturday. The aim is to have the European Parliament adopt an opinion during the July session in Strasbourg. (EP Press)