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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 19:00 GMT
EU 'constitution' draft unveiled
Valery Giscard d'Estaing
Giscard likens his work to that of US founding fathers
The man overseeing the big debate on the future of the European Union has unveiled the first draft of a proposed new constitution for Europe.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing has been heading a 105-member convention aimed at simplifying EU treaties, putting them into a language everyone can understand and bringing the organisation closer to citizens.

Convention representatives

National governments and parliaments
European Commission
European parliament
13 candidate countries
Non-governmental organisations and academia
The draft envisages merging all the treaties which currently underpin the EU into a single, much simpler document.

The Brussels-based convention is not due to finish its work until next year.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing's draft suggests a basic definition of what the EU is - a union of European States, which, while retaining their national identities, closely co-ordinate their policies at a European level and administer certain common competences on a federal basis.

It walks into controversy in article one, wondering aloud what the name of Europe should be, says the BBC's Europe correspondent, Tim Franks.

One possibility is United Europe - Mr Giscard d'Estaing's preference - or United States of Europe.

That last name, in the words of one senior British official, "has not a cat in hell's chance of success".

Nor is the UK Government happy at the proposal that everyone inside the union should have dual citizenship of their home country and the EU.


A United States of Europe is just what we need

Timothy Cooper, UK

Other ideas include a powerful foreign secretary for the EU to replace its high representative for foreign and security policy - a post currently held by Javier Solana.

Another idea is that of a Congress where members of the European parliament and of national parliaments would sit together.

The text is currently a skeleton, suggesting only chapter headings for a new constitution. They include:

  • Name: The first article of the document would set out the values of the bloc and define its objectives as well as its name. There are four possibilities - the European Community, the European Union, the United States of Europe or United Europe

  • Rights and citizenship: This section would define the rights of each citizen and say everyone has dual citizenship of the union and their own country

  • Who does what: The constitution would define the powers of each of the main bodies that make up the EU: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council of member-states

  • Openness and exit: The draft treaty says EU institutions should be as open as possible and legislative debates by the European Parliament and European Council should be public. For the first time, the document would also establish the procedure for a country to leave the bloc and the consequences this would have.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing has compared his task with that of the US Founding Fathers who drew up the US constitution.

Public consultation

The convention includes representatives of EU governments, national parliaments - including those of applicant states - the European parliament and the European Commission.

Part of its work is public consultation - it has canvassed opinion from a wide range of European players, including academics, trade unions, think-tanks and non-governmental organisations.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing, aged 76, is a former French president brought back into the limelight to head the convention at the insistence of French President Jacques Chirac.

Optimists hope that the new constitution could be finally approved as early as next year, in time for the planned enlargement of the European Union in 2004.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Chris Morris
"The wise old men have produced the first broad outlines of what could be Europe's constitution"
The BBC's Tim Franks
"The small countries hate the idea"
Valery Giscard d'Estaing, former French President
"We could choose the name suggested at the beginning of Europe"

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26 Feb 02 | Europe
25 Oct 02 | Europe
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