After the historic decision on enlargement, the EU now faces the task of making a union with 25 or more members a success. That is the task of the Intergovernmental Conference, which started its work on Oct. 4. Governments of the 15 current members and the 10 new members will negotiate a Constitutional Treaty that will form the framework for European co-operation in the future.
We aim for a treaty that can stand for several years without further changes. Denmark has a clear goal in these talks: to ensure a strong, democratic and transparent union.
The Intergovernmental Conference works on the basis of the draft treaty presented by the European Convention. The convention worked in full transparency for more than a year, designing a single, consolidated draft treaty that was agreed upon by a broad consensus among its members.
The convention's draft treaty provides for a more simple and comprehensible structure for the EU based on more democratic and transparent cooperation between member states. Indeed, it underlines the fact that the member states are the defining building blocks of the EU and defines the competences of the union clearly.
The Intergovernmental Conference should therefore not reopen the main political compromises of the convention. There are, however, a number of questions that need further deliberation. This is the case with some of the more technical issues relating to individual policy areas. And it is especially the case concerning institutional questions.
Denmark therefore fully supports the Italian presidency's aim to complete the work of the Intergovernmental Conference by the end of the year. Like the Italian president, we believe the negotiations should focus mainly on the central institutional questions.
Denmark's priorities are clear. The new treaty must fulfil two basic demands: it must respect the central role of member states and it must maintain the balance between larger and smaller members; the institutional structure must be efficient, democratic, and transparent.
The three central institutional questions confronting the Intergovernmental Conference are the future organization of the commission and the council, as well as determining the role of the future president of the European Council. We must find a solution that realizes the full potential of all three actors.
Denmark presented a proposal on how to strengthen the organization of the commission that reflects two considerations. On the one hand, the principle of one commissioner per member state with full voting powers carries great importance to many member states and to many citizens. At the same time, we must ensure that the commission can work effectively with 25 or more members.
Our proposal seeks to retain the convention's idea of limiting the number of portfolios in the commission while giving all commissioners full voting rights. We suggest that the work of the commission be concentrated in 15-19 portfolios. The heaviest portfolios should be shared among a number of commissioners, one of them responsible for coordination. This model will ensure an efficient commission with strong public legitimacy.
Strengthening the commission must go hand in hand with strengthening the council. It is not a zero-sum game. The council presidency, in my view, should remain embedded in the member states. With 25 and more members, however, it is necessary to improve the present rotating presidency (in particular the lack of continuity).
While being open toward the idea of a "Team Presidency" involving, for example, three countries for a period of one year or 18 months, I worry that it would make horizontal coordination and the smooth daily conduct of business more difficult. Therefore, I believe that we should modernize the present rotating presidency.
But whether we continue with the current format for the presidency or introduce a team model, we must consider how the president of the European Council can play a role in coordinating work within the council.
The purpose of the European Council chair is to ensure the coherence and decision-making capacity of the European Council. He or she must of course be given the necessary means to perform this task. At the same time we must avoid creating a presidential system that functions independently of the council, the commission and the member states. But if we do not integrate the president of the European Council into the existing institutional structure and relegate the presidency to presiding over the meetings of the European Council, we will miss an important chance to strengthen the overall decision-making capacity of the union. We also risk creating competing structures that will weaken the institutions as a whole.
Denmark seeks an ambitious result in the institutional negotiations. We wish to strengthen the EU's ability to solve the problems of the member states. In order to accomplish this goal, we owe it to ourselves to create a strong, democratic, and transparent framework for co-operation in an enlarged union.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen is prime minister of Denmark.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
There was a net reduction last year in the number of Taipei residents and this year is expected to set a 23-year high for population decline in the city, Ministry of the Interior statistics released yesterday showed. From January to last month, 18,861 more people moved out of Taipei than moved into the capital, an increase of 7,000 from the same period last year, the data showed. That is a 7.2 percent decrease in the city’s population since the start of the year, the biggest drop in both percentage and total number among all municipalities and counties nationwide, the data showed. The data
COUNCILS CLASH: The Mainland Affairs Council said a new office in Hong Kong is to assist people with issues related to investment, study and employment in Taiwan The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday denied an accusation by the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council that its Taiwanese counterpart in the territory was “interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.” The Hong Kong council leveled the accusation after Taipei’s Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council this month announced it would establish a Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office to facilitate humanitarian aid for Hong Kongers. The new office is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday. The MAC yesterday asked the Hong Kong council to “not misinterpret” the government’s intentions. The two Taiwan-Hong Kong councils were established in 2010 to
IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDES? Some experts say the NHI system does not do enough to educate the public, or pay doctors to talk to patients, about healthy lifestyles While the life expectancy of Taiwanese newborns in 2018 reached 80.69 years, the number of years people spent in poor health hit a record high at 8.41 years, Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics showed on Saturday. Healthy life expectancy is calculated by a person’s life expectancy minus the time they spend in ill health, such as the loss of mobility, disabilities and chronic disease, based on medical records and calculations about the years they live with disabilities. The number of years that Taiwanese spend in poor health is increasing slowly, but steadily, rising by 0.46 years, or five-and-a-half months, between 2012
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also