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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
The future of Europe: Justin Webb quizzed
What will the European Union look like in a decade? That debate has now been started by Germany, the richest and most powerful country in the EU.
A draft proposal for constitutional reform of the EU, drawn up by the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, talks of giving the European Parliament full control of the EU's budget.
And it calls for the creation of a second chamber of the European parliament, and of developing the European Commission into "a strong European Executive."
The plans have already been criticised by Euro-sceptics, who see them as yet more steps towards a European super-state. But, with major enlargement of the union imminent, further constitutional change is seen as inevitable.
So what will the big changes be? Which countries are pushing in what direction? Which vision is likely to prevail?
The BBC's Europe correspondent, Justin Webb, took your questions in a live forum from Brussels on Wednesday.
To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:
Highlights of interview:
Yes, you are quite right MEPs do have a lot of accountability in as much as they are elected. They don't at the moment have a huge amount of power - in the German plan - the Schroeder plan - it would be to give them much more power. You are right in saying, the Commission is not elected and has a lot of power.
However, what is not clear to me and I don't think it is quite clear in Chancellor Schroeder's party is whether the long term implication of what they are suggesting is that one day the Commission itself, which they want to become stronger, whether the implication is that that also becomes elected. Also at some stage in the future you have perhaps a president of the European Commission and perhaps other commissioners who are themselves elected people and that is something they have got to work out.
Yes, certainly you could suggest that all of this was about giving greater democracy and addressing this thing that they call the democratic deficit in Europe.
This is not just something enemies of the European Union think it is something that friends of the European Union think as well. Somehow there has got to be a way found whereby individuals can not only feel that they are part of the process but actually take part in the process themselves. In a way the European Union has got to grow up.
Your question specifically relating to does the Schroeder plan give people more of a role - does it mean that elected institutions are more in charge - then yes it certainly does because the parliament would be more powerful.
Secondly, would there be elected MPs in the new proposed chamber? This is a more complex business. Under, what appears to be, the Schroeder plan - no there wouldn't because the second chamber of the European parliament would actually be the prime ministers of all the member nations of the European Union. They would meet together - they already do meet together once every six months of so - and they would form, when they met, the second chamber. So it would just be those prime ministers.
There is another plan, not the Schroeder plan, the Blair plan if you like that the British Government have been working on and which is publicly known - in which he wants members of the national parliament and not just the prime ministers - not all of them but a group of them from each national parliament - for them to meet as a second chamber of the European parliament.
So you can see there are various ideas going around this business of having a second chamber but the common theme is that they want people from national governments, national parliaments, to be involved.
In the European parliament, lobbyists have a far easier access to things and therefore big wealthy corporations have a far easier access than do ordinary members of the parliament.
So how is it to be avoided? - not very easily under the Schroeder plan. I don't see that being addressed at the moment although it is certainly a subject that will have to be addressed if this overall issue of how you persuade people that Europe is working - not just for your good - but also to some extent in your control.
The fact is it is a journey - there is no fixed destination and it is very difficult for politicians, particularly in eurosceptic countries like Britain, to come out and say that plainly and openly to their electorate.
The European Union changes people - it changes states and I think if nations find that there is a genuine advantage for them in being members then I don't think nationalism is a problem.
Turning to the question of whether Europe's face would change if Turkey is admitted? Yes the accession of Turkey is a possibility. It is now accepted as a possibility but not much more than that by all the European Union's existing member states.
As to whether it will change the face of the union - you bet it will. In religious ways - Turkey is a Muslim country - that would be a very big cultural change but also by the sheer size of Turkey. There will be this huge number of people joining the European Union to the East there - so yes it would be a massive change.
30 Apr 01 | Europe
Schroeder EU vision causes stir
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