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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Blair fisk project part 3

There was also a discussion at the Council about competition. The treaties have always made it clearthat competition in the internal market should notbe distorted. The now defunct constitutional treaty’s objectives would have included new wording about “free and undistorted competition”. When the treaty was set aside, that provision was lost, but we agreed on a new and legally binding protocol to be annexed to the treaties, which reaffirms the commitment to ensuring that competition is not distorted, and the other references to competition in the existing treaties will remain: for example, articles 4, 27, 34, 81 to 89, 96, 98, 105 and 157 from the European Community treaty. The legal position in relation to competition therefore remains unchanged.

This is genuinely unclear. It certainly worries the CBI, and the UK clearly dropped the ball (it was rescued by Prodi, of all people, after a phone call from someone sharp eyed at Goldman Sachs). But how big its effect is remains to be seen. Perhaps we will need to see some more legal evidence.

Alongside meeting our four essential requirements, we secured a number of further improvements. The new treaty will confirm for the first time, explicitly, that national security is the sole responsibility of member states.

Again, more warm words. But the IGC mandate states that, "The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence." The word "might" is changed from "will" in the original constitution. But do we really want to commit to "the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence?"

Surely we should be clear about this now. The disappointing thing is that the UK tried to get all these words deleted during the European Convention: Peter Hain wrote that: "Common defence, including as a form of enhanced cooperation, is divisive and a duplication of the guarantees that 19 of the 25 Member States will enjoy through NATO."

The Union already signs international agreements, but the treaty formalises its legal personality. However, we have now agreed a declaration by all countries for this intergovernmental conference confirming that the fact of this legal personality does not authorise the Union in any way to legislate or act beyond the powers conferred on it by member states in the treaties.

Actually this is a big deal and again the Government were opposed to it. It basically means extending the EU's legal personality to justicwe and police and foreign affairs issues.

Talking about the original version of the constitution, Italian PM Romano Prodi said that this change was “A gigantic leap forward. Europe can now play its role on the world stage thanks to its legal personality". The French Government’s referendum website argued that, “The European Union naturally has a vocation to be a permanent member of the Security Council, and the Constitution will allow it to be, by giving it legal personality.”

Even the UK Government admitted that it could cause problems. In particular he said that the Government could only accept legal personality for the EU if it was not combined with pillar collapse. When the constitution was first being drafted Peter Hain said that “We can only accept a single legal personality for the Union if the special arrangements for CFSP and some aspects of JHA are protected.” But the JHA pillar has been collapsed. This strongly implies that over time

Hain told MPs: “we could support a single legal personality for the EU but not if it jeopardises the national representations of member states in international bodies; not if it means a Euro-army; not if it means giving up our seat on the United Nations Security Council; and not if it means a Euro-FBI or a Euro police force."

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