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Optimising the Mechanism for ‘Enhanced Cooperation’ within the EU: Recommendations for the Constitutional Treaty. CEPS Policy Brief No. 33, May 2003

Philippart, Eric. (2003) Optimising the Mechanism for ‘Enhanced Cooperation’ within the EU: Recommendations for the Constitutional Treaty. CEPS Policy Brief No. 33, May 2003. [Policy Paper]

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    [Executive Summary]. Policy development in the EU is often impeded by member states being either unwilling or unable to participate. One way to overcome that problem is to resort to flexible approaches accommodating diversity. Convinced that an enlarged Union would require more flexibility, the current member states agreed in 1997 to introduce a new safety valve in the treaties, named ‘enhanced cooperation’. Thanks to that mechanism, a group of member states may be authorised to use the EU framework to further their cooperation or integration in policy areas under EU competence whenever it appears impossible to do so with all of the member states. There are a number of reasons why the Constitutional Treaty under negotiation should not only uphold such a mechanism, but should improve it in various respects. The future treaty should start by suppressing redundant preconditions for authorisation, introducing the possibility for a group of willing and able to gear up (i.e. adopt more efficient decision-making procedures and embrace higher ambitions), as well as extending the scope of enhanced cooperation to foreign and defence matters. It should also suppress the minimum participation threshold and clarify the last resort stipulation. As to authorisation, the future treaty should simplify the proposal procedure, specify what may be included in the proposal, streamline the consultation and deliberation procedures, and provide that, for CFSP too, the authorisation is given by the Council acting by qualified majority or superqualified majority. Participation in enhanced cooperation should be open to all, provided that objective criteria are met. The same conditions should apply for initial and subsequent participation. Admission to enhanced cooperation should be managed by the Commission under a single procedure. Regarding enhanced cooperation’s operating mode, the future treaty should stick to the current system of ‘institutional isomorphism’ (no variable geometry in the European Parliament or the Commission). Nevertheless, participating member states should be allowed to decide, acting unanimously, that enhanced cooperation shall be governed by qualified majority instead of unanimity and/or by codecision procedure. They should also be authorised to hold restricted meetings at an informal level. The future treaty should further introduce the possibility to differentiate between the ‘pre-in’ (member states willing to participate but unable to do so from the start) and the ‘out’ (member states unwilling to participate). Finally, the status of the acts and decisions resulting from enhanced cooperation could be revisited. In any case, the future treaty should authorise the Council to decide by a qualified majority that the Union’s budget will support enhanced cooperation’s operational costs.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Treaty reform > Constitution for Europe
    EU policies and themes > Treaty reform > European Convention
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > institutional development/policy > decision making/policy-making
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Centre for European Policy Studies (Brussels) > CEPS Policy Briefs
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2004
    Page Range: p. 13
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:20

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