Berlin Declaration – what is in and who signs what?

Good, the informal Summit, called also “celebration� of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaties is over. The lights are off, everyone left Berlin and heads back to national capitals. We have the final result in 23 languages, signed supposedly by 3 people alone: German Chancellor Angela Merkel that currently holds the EU Presidency, President of the European Commission Mr Barroso and my strong “favourite� of this post Hans-Gert Poettering. I’m still in Berlin and have a bit of time on my hands to reflect on it…

We have briefly discussed the final contents of the Declaration at the meeting of JEF that took place in these days in Berlin. Being close to the “leaders� certainly inspired some of our criticisms. How can the whole process that lead to the drafting of the text be so intransparent? Why was the first leaked version in German? Does it mean that the official language of the drafting was actually German? In that case, who was able to understand well what was being put in? But ok, we also know from history that sometimes translations bridge differences.

Before going to a more personal analysis, two main remarks from the debates within JEF. First, the Declaration is vague and undecisive on two fronts: enlargement and the Constitution. Due to known opposition by the French, Brits, Dutch, Polish and Czechs, perhaps not only them, these two references come out more between the lines than not. Second, the text is OK to understand, but fails on a major front: it does not mention citizens as the engine of Europe. It mentiones them barely as passive subjects of rights and freedoms. It does not grant them a standing in the triangle populations – nation states – European institutions. The text only mentiones the last two.

Now moving on to the personal thoughts on the Declaration, which above all should not be taken too seriously. In the end, it’s only a Declaration. We’ve seen many and this one has less direct implications than the Laeken Declaration paving the way to the European Convention.

So, let me pick some quotes:

“Only together can we continue to preserve our ideal of European society in future for the good of all European Union citizens.� A strong reference to Unity and to the existence of European society. Good.

On to the policies part.

“Europe’s wealth lies in the knowledge and ability of its people; that is the key to growth, employment and social cohesion.â€? Good that priority is given to Lisbon goals. “We will fight terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration together.â€? This commitment comes second in line. “The European Union wants to promote freedom and development in the world.â€? Third in the line. “We intend jointly to lead the way in energy policy and climate protection and make our contribution to averting the global threat of climate changeâ€?. Fourth in line. Perhaps some good work done by Mr Frattini (Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs), but certainly worrying for those that wanted to see even more“positiveâ€? priorities first. Freedom and development fine, energy policy and climate change are trendy. Seems that these came just handy for Merkel’s drafters.

This is how vague the trio was on Enlargement: “The European Union will continue to thrive both on openness and on the will of its Member States to consolidate the Union’s internal development.â€?

And then to a slightly underrated part, actually surprisingly clear: “For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.� I think this is a strong statement considering the diverging opinions on the future of the Constitution. A “renewed common basis� is obviously as far as Merkel could go, but well, seems good to me. Some news also mention that Merkel defied some member states by including the date for the reform and signing on their behalf…

As for the reference to the citizens. The post of the Commission on the Future 50 years is better in this respect, it talks about participation and involvement. For Merkel and co this does not seem to be a problem to tackle.

Now to Hans-Gert Poettering. What I mentioned already during a speech at the JEF meeting, I think his signature under the Declaration is a mistake. As President of the European Parliament that has been cut out completely from the drafting of the Declaration and where the Members of the EP only got the first draft from an Austrian Press Agency, he should have had simply more reservations. True, he is German. True, he is from the same party as Mrs Merkel. But wrong, he should have not signed something on what no discussion has been done in the EP. Perhaps there is something I don’t know and the chairmen of the EP groups agreed before his signature, but still…A bit of a shame for the institution standing for openess and the link to the citizens.

PS: My ever favourite Asa again masterminded some nice street actions this weekend, see www.5to12.eu.

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