The European Council in Laeken in December 2001 convened a Convention on the future of the European Union, adopting the Laeken Declaration.
The term 'European Council' stands for the meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the fifteen Member States of the European Union and the President of the European Commission. During the last two years it has taken place four times a year (the so called 'EU Summit')
'Council' is a meeting in the composition of the ministers of the Member States, most often the meeting of the Foreign ministers (known as the General Affairs Council). It must be observed that different EU policies are dealt with by several Councils, like the Economic and Financial Council, Agriculture Council, and so on.
The task of the Convention
is to raise the ideas and visions to formulate proposals for the next Intergovernmental Conference that will be held after the closing of the Convention in 2003 or 2004. The Convention is not supposed to adopt any binding acts. The Convention Chairman will give report to each European Council meeting.
The agreement on proposals is to be made by unanimity; still there is a possibility to submit to the Intergovernmental Conference different proposals for one and the same issue.
The member states and candidate states are represented by:
2 members of parliament and 1 government representative. In addition, there are 2 representatives of the European Commission and 16 members of the European Parliament who are also involved in the work of the Convention. The Economic and Social Committee (three representatives), the Committee of the Regions (six representatives), the social partners (three representatives) and the European Ombudsman are invited to attend as observers.
of the Convention is composed of the Convention President (the former President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing), two Vice-President (former Italian Prime Minister Guiliano Amato and former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene), and 10 representatives of the Convention: the representatives of the Governments of Spain, Denmark and Greece (countries holding the Council Presidency during the time of work of the Convention), two European Parliament representatives, two representatives of national Parliaments, and two Commission representatives.
In order for the debate to be broadly based and involve all citizens, a Forum is opened for organizations representing civil society (the social partners, the business world, non-governmental organizations, academia, etc.). It takes the form of a structured network of organizations receiving regular information on the Convention's proceedings, and is "situated" on the home site of the Forum: http://europa.eu.int/futurum/forum_convention/how_en.htm
The status of the Candidate Countries
The European Council has decided that the candidate countries are to be allowed to participate in the Convention as full members, without, however, being able to prevent any consensus which may emerge among the Member States.
|The formulation means that the opinion of Candidate Countries will not be taken into consideration only in case they do not accept a proposal that has been agreed by all Member States. In case of substantial questions, this is almost impossible, since members group along themselves according the opinions they advocate. As regards many issues some Candidate Countries may have similar opinion with some Member States, probably differing from the standpoint of other Candidate Countries.|
The mandate of the Convention
According to the decision of the Member States and the Heads of Government in December 2001, the competency of the Convention is to prepare proposals for the revision of the EU Treaty and institutional reform. The Laeken Declaration identifies a list of questions (57), designed to inspire the work of the Convention. These can be divided into 4 main issues:
1) The role of the EU in the world;
2) Delimitation of powers between the EU and the Member States;
3) Simplification of Treaties;
4) EU institutional reforms.
|Four subjects for discussion were identified already in the Nice Treaty: 1) a more precise delimitation of powers between the EU and the Member States; 2) the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights; 3) simplification of the EU Treaties in order to make them clearer and better understood; 4) the role of national parliaments in the European architecture. Though these four do not fully represent the whole range of questions that are to be addressed at the Convention.|
Discussions in Latvia on the Future of the EU
A Forum to discuss the future of the EU was summoned on the Europe Day, the 9th of May. The Forum was chaired by the Prime Minister, and by the President of the NGO European Movement - Latvia. The Forum contained more than 150 representatives of:
- national and regional mass media,
- cultural societies of the minorities living in Latvia,
- Government representatives.
Most of the speakers emphasised that Latvia-s accession to the EU was a question of catching up with the time and maintaining the same tempo of development with other European states.
It is envisaged that the Forum would come together again in August, 2002, and January, 2003.
The Government is organising meetings to discuss the questions outlined in the Laeken Declaration (the first such meeting took place on 11 April).
Representatives of Latvia at the Convention
The Government of Latvia is represented by Ms.Sandra Kalniete, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the alternate Mr.Roberts Zīle, Minister for Transport.
The Representatives of the Parliament to the Convention are: Mr.Rihards Pīks (elected from the People's Party) with the alternate Mr.Guntars Krasts, Chair of the European Affairs Committee (elected from the TB/LNNK), and Ms. Liene Liepiņa with the alternate Mr.Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš (both elected from the New Era).