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A step towards limiting the sovereignty of states. The European Parliament supported a radical change of the EU treaties

Published: 23.11.2023

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• The European Parliament supported proposals for changes to EU treaties.

• These changes assume a far-reaching expansion of the competences of the European Union at the expense of the sovereignty of the member states, which consists primarily in abandoning the principle of unanimity in several dozen key areas and granting the Union new competences

• The day before, during the debate, the majority of MEPs expressed support for the proposed changes.

Expanding the competences of the European Union

The proposals include: giving up the principle of unanimity in several dozen fundamental areas, including issues such as foreign policy, security and tax issues. The new mechanism will allow key decisions to be made if they are supported by countries where 50% of the population of the European Union lives. In practice, this means that the European Union's policy will be decided by a coalition of Germany and France and several smaller countries associated with them. In addition, the Union is to gain new competences in the field of health, energy, climate, as well as industrial and education policy among others.

During Tuesday's almost three-hour discussion, the majority of MEPs expressed their support for the changes presented in the AFCO Committee report. This position was motivated by, among others, the need for a well-functioning, i.e. united Europe, as well as the recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which were presented as the voice of the citizens of the European Union.

The beginning of the debate was dominated by the rapporteurs, including the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, who represented Belgium. In his speech, the Flemish politician pointed out that the world has changed since the Lisbon Treaty and has become more brutal. He added that the future can only be secured through further integration of the European Union.

The next rapporteur, Sven Simon from Germany, pointed out that there are 178 different weapons systems in Europe, while in the United States there are only 13 of them. In his opinion, this justifies the need to unite the community's defence sector.

The third co-author of the report, German MEP Daniel Freund, directly pointed out that each of the proposed changes is a revolution - and the EU needs bold changes. There were also voices about the need to ensure so-called sexual and reproductive rights in the European Union, which are expected to find suport from civil society organisations. In this context, the issue of abortion law in Poland was raised, which, due to the high standard of protection of life in that country, is allegedly responsible for the death of patients from septic shock, which is said to be caused by doctors' concerns about providing help to a pregnant woman.

It is worth underlyning that all rapporteurs, apart from the former Prime Minister of Belgium, come from Germany. Therefore, as many as four out of five MEPs responsible for preparing the report represent the same country - Germany.

Many opposing voices

On the other hand, critics of the treaty changes, gathered primarily in the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR group), assessed the proposals contained in the Report very negatively.

MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (ECR) stated that "the proposed changes are a massive transfer of the 9 most important competences to the EU level. Only a few competences will remain in the member states. This is the almost complete abolition of unanimity, as well as the veto power on 63 issues, which will lead to a constitutional coup d'état and will create superstate that will relegate member states to regions.

Later in his speech, Saryusz-Wolski declared that "this is undemocratic because it takes decisions away from member states where democracy works best."

The Polish representative spoke out against the introduction of changes, pointing out that the Union should be protected against self-destruction and transformation into a superstate, as well as defending Christianity in it and opposing the implementation of the assumptions of the Ventotene Manifesto.

The draft proposal for amendments to the treaties, in the preamble, directly refers to the Ventotene Manifesto, one of the two main authors of which was Altiero Spinelli, an Italian communist who supported the abolition of private property and nation states and the establishment of the United States of Europe. He is also the patron of the Spinelli Group, which brings together, among others, Members of the European Parliament who support the federalisation and centralisation of the European Union.

Beata Szydło, former Prime Minister of Poland, representing the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, presented her position in a similar tone.

„Europeans have the right to decide how they will raise their children, what these children will learn at school, how they will defend themselves when they will be facing an enemy from abroad. However, our interest is in building a European Union that will be stronger by respecting the member states, respecting diversity and building unity in this diversity," the Polish politician emphasised.

Andrzej Halicki, former minister of administration in Poland’s liberal PO-PSL government and currently a member of the European People's Party, also spoke against the implementation of the treaty changes in their current wording. In his speech, he drew attention to the need for reforms. However, he announced that the Polish delegation associated with the EPP would vote against the report.

A moderate position was presented by Spanish diplomat Francisco Millán Mon, who emphasised the need to exercise great caution and consensus on the reform of treaties. In his opinion, the Union should, first of all, effectively implement its goals, and for this it must have broad legitimacy and take action by consensus. The community consists not only of different nationalities, but also of political groups, among which everyone should be able to express their views. In his opinion, it was disappointing that the Council presented a report on EU reforms prepared only by French and German experts.

The representative of Estonia, Jaak Madison, pointed out that, according to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, such a broad transfer of competences to EU institutions requires a national referendum, because the mandate given by the Estonian people in 2003 (before joining the EU) is no longer sufficient.

MEP and former Prime Minister of Poland, Marek Belka (S&D), argued in turn that: "tightening European integration will make political gangrene like Kaczyński's Poland or Orbán's Hungary less likely” and that „we should only be happy about that.”

The draft change itself consists of 267 amendments, prepared by rapporteurs from the five main factions in the European Parliament, i.e. the socialists, the Christian Democrats, the liberals, the greens and the left, who worked under the leadership of the Flemish liberal, Guy Verhofstadt.

Changes adopted by the Parliament

With yesterday's vote, the European Parliament supported the proposed changes to the Treaties. 291 MEPs voted for the report on this matter, 274 against, with 44 abstentions. Polish MPs from the Left voted in favour of it, representatives of the United Right, PSL and the majority of PO MPs voted against.

“Today's decision of the European Parliament is another step in the process aimed at tightening European integration at the expense of the sovereignty of the member states. However, the final decision on this matter will be made by the countries constituting the European Union, which must agree to ratify the new version of the treaties” - points out Patryk Ignaszczak, from the Ordo Iuris Centre for International Law.

 

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