A Constitutional Treaty for Europe, Galway (Ireland), 27-28 May 2004


 Galway, 27-28 May 2004

 Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be invited to speak to you today in this Forum on the Future of Europe and the draft Constitutional Treaty.

Since its foundation, the European Union has evolved in a dynamic, pragmatic and flexible manner. The outcome of the last five decades has been a remarkable success. The community method proved its usefulness. Today, the European integration is a universal reference model.

At the beginning of this new century, the European Union is faced with a dual challenge. On one hand, the Union has been going through its most comprehensive enlargement process, first wave of which has successfully been completed on 1 May 2004. On the other hand, the forces of globalization and deepening of European integration, compel the European Union to assume new and more complex responsibilities.

The objectives of the European Union are evolving as a response to these two major challenges.

The task of preparing the Union for the challenges ahead was bestowed upon the Convention. We can summarize these challenges as follows:

a)                            how to bring citizens, and primarily the young, closer to the European design and the European institutions,

b)                            how to organize politics and the European political area in an enlarged Union, and

c)                            how to develop the Union into a stabilising factor and a model in the new, multipolar world.

Since the commencement of the Convention, Turkey has actively participated in its works. And I had the pleasure and the honour of participating in this democratic process at the end of which the Constitutional Treaty for the Future of Europe has been successfully drafted.

The draft Constitutional Treaty reflects the spirit of compromise that prevailed throughout the Convention.

The draft provides a perfect basis on which the Union would achieve further successes. Here are some its achievements:

–         The draft Constitutional Treaty simplifies the Treaties accumulated during the process of evolution of the Union;

–          it clarifies the scope of the powers of the Union;

–         it enhances democratic legitimacy of the Union and simplifies the range of legal instruments;

–         it provides better equipped institutions for more effective work;

–         it enshrines the Charter of Fundamental Rights;

–         it provides the basis for a more coherent and effective EU foreign policy and projection of its shared values internationally.

With this understanding, it is of great importance that the draft Convention which constitutes a coherent whole, should not be altered in a way that would unravel the innovative achievements of the Convention.

I have observed with great admiration that the Inter-Governmental Conference which has been convened to discuss the draft of the Constitutional Treaty has chosen to respect the draft text produced by the Convention. I believe that this is the reason why the IGC has opted for leaving the subject open during the  European Council of December 2003.

I do understand that the outstanding issues are the most sensitive ones, notably the definition and scope of the qualified majority voting and the composition of the Commission. However, I am convinced that the necessary political will does exist to finalize the work and reach a final agreement during the European Council to be held in June 2004.

I believe that the determination and the political will, enabling completion of the biggest wave of enlargement in the history of Europe would also ensure the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the Constitutional Treaty. This would be the next biggest achievement in the Union’s history.

If you allow me, I would also like to say, in a few sentences, my perception of Europe. We in Turkey believe that our future lies in the EU and with this belief, we attach great importance to the debate on the Future of Europe and in particular, on the draft Constitutional Treaty.

Concerning the outstanding issues, we believe that every Member State should be represented by a Commissioner in the Commission. We observe with satisfaction that the proposal of splitting up the Commission into “voting” and “non-voting” Commissioners has mainly not been welcomed by the IGC. We consider that it should be every Member State’s privilege to acquire the experience of having a Commissioner in the Commission.

We support the new definition of the qualified majority voting. The system of double majority would provide the effectiveness desired in the decision-making mechanism of the Council. There can be slight adjustments on the thresholds proposed by the Convention, but the system of double majority should be preserved.

On the scope of qualified majority voting, the text of the Convention that proposes the extension of its application to a number of areas seems to be the most practical one. Efficiency of the European Union ultimately depends on the extension of the application of the qualified majority voting procedure. I believe that, in the final outcome, a compromise agreement on this issue would be reached while paying due respect to the sensitivities of the Member States.

On the issue of budget, one of the pillars of the Convention’s success was strengthening the role of the European Parliament. As a Member of Parliament, I believe that the draft text will weaken the role of the European Parliament in the budgetary procedure, therefore it should be endorsed. In this respect, I am pleased to observe that the latest proposal of the Irish Presidency, which strikes an appropriate balance between the Council and the Parliament, has generally been welcomed and that it is very likely to reach an agreement on the basis of this proposal.

On the other hand, I was surprised to observe attempts to reopen the debate for inclusion of a reference to a specific religion in the Preamble of the Constitutional Treaty. The draft submitted by the Convention is a product of intensive negotiations on this issue and it strikes the right balance between the different views on this issue. It is hard to comprehend how the secular nature of the EU institutions as well as of Member States can be maintained while making a reference to a specific religion in the Preamble. I strongly believe that we should maintain the text drafted by the Convention.

I would like to conclude by reiterating my conviction that the negotiations on the draft Constitutional Treaty would come to a successful conclusion marking another turning point in the history of Europe and providing the Union with a firm basis for future achievements, for a strong united Europe, which Turkey sees itself as part of.

Thank you for your attention.

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