Constitution draft hits on Europes
-Sant, Vella react to first draft
Europes deep divisions caused by the conflict in Iraq are set
to continue with the proposal that the block of 25 adopt a single common
foreign and security policy and appoint a foreign minister. The proposal
is included in the draft of the EU Constitution, published on Monday.
The Constitution confers upon the Union the competence to define
and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive
framing of a common defence policy.
Touching on the soar point that saw the EU grapple for a solution to
the Iraqi crisis, the Constitution says that the Member States shall
actively and unreservedly support the Unions common foreign and
security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity.
The Constitution also impedes Member States from taking action
contrary to the Unions interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.
The draft talks about the need for EU-wide investment and research into
armaments and calls on the Member States to upgrade their military capabilities.
What could be described as a backward step for Malta, the Constitution
proposes capping the number of seats in the European Parliament at 700,
with a minimum threshold of four seats. Malta currently has five seats
in the EP and if the Constitution is approved as is, Malta would most
probably lose a seat given the fact that it is the smallest EU Member
The other issue at stake over which consensus is difficult to find is
the Presidency. The Constitution proposes having an elected president
for a two-and-a-half year term as opposed to the rotating presidency
Reacting to the draft, Convention members Dr Alfred Sant and Dr George
Vella said that the section concerning foreign policy allowed possibility
of structured co-operation by which willing partners could
move ahead of other member states in their voluntary co-operation. The
Malta Labour Party representatives remarked positively that the Constitution
also talks of constructive abstention by member states who
opt to refrain from taking joint action with their fellow member states.
However, they cautioned that neutral countries could find difficulty
in assimilating certain aspects of the common foreign policy because
of the clause that says that Member States cannot take action
contrary to the Unions interests.
Sant and Vella argued that the phrasing of that particular clause could
give rise to different interpretations as is in the case of a hypothetical
trade embargo ordered by the EU against a third country with which a
state that has utilised constructive abstention has long
standing commercial relations.
Pressure may be put on that member state to also apply the embargo,
Sant and Vella said.
Sant and Vella described the creation of a foreign minister role as
a useful development even if they insisted on more clarification
on the competencies and responsibilities the post will carry with it.
On the issue of representation in the EP, Sant and Vella said that the
minimum threshold should be set at six rather than four and argued in
favour of retaining the current rotating presidency.