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  A Constitution for the Citizens of Europe
  Reformed Institutions
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Reformed Institutions

How will the European Union work with the Constitution?
A more efficient Europe
Who does what? The distribution of competence between the Member States and the European Union

One of the major developments achieved by the European Constitution lies in clarifying how the European Union functions. The complex nature of the "community machine" has too often been the source of citizens’ disinterest in the decisions made by Europe, which are often deemed too ambiguous. The Constitution defines the role and functions of each institution in order to clarify the European political system.

The European Commission

The European Commission maintains its central role. It monopolizes legislative initiative, providing it with major political influence.

The first Commission appointed after the application of the Constitution (2009-2014) will comprise a Commissioner from each Member State, following which the number of Commissioners will correspond to two thirds of the Member States (i.e. 18 in the Union of 27 after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria). Commissioners will be selected based on a rotating system of representation of the Member States. If the new system proves to be effective, it will be due to the reduction of the size of the Commission, which in turn can facilitate reaching a consensus. 

Another great advancement concerns the President of the Commission who will be elected by the European Parliament based on a proposal and consultation with the European Council and the results of the European elections. This development presents a dual advantage.  Firstly, it provides the President of the Commission with a new democratic legitimacy, which is vital for an institution that is often criticized as “disconnected” from its citizens. Finally, this will invoke a new credibility in the European elections and a greater participation of the European electorate whose vote will influence the European political sphere.

A President for the Council of Europe

Presently, each Member State presides over the European Union with its Head of State as intermediary for a six-month rotating term. This system hinders the stability of the European Council’s agenda, which represents the Heads of State and Government of the Union and defines major European orientations.

The greatest innovation lies in the creation of a stable Presidential position. Like the European Parliament and the Commission, the European Council will have a full time president (who will  not be able to fulfill a national mandate). He will be elected via a qualified majority vote in the European Council for a two and a half year, renewable term.

The President of the European Council will provide the European Union with a voice and a face by ensuring the Union's representation internationally and by presiding over and coordinating the European Council's work.

The Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers' (comprising various groups according to the sectors involved, such as economy and finance, agriculture, etc …) main role is to vote on European laws with the European Parliament. 

The first innovation lies in the fact that Council debates and voting will be held in public, which is presently not the case, which follows the trend of democratizing the European Union. Apart from the specialist groups within the Council of Ministers the Constitution emphasizes:

- The "General Affairs Council" that ensures the coherence of the work undertaken by the various groups within the Council.

- The "Foreign Affairs Council" presided over by the new European Foreign Affairs Minister who "establishes the Union's external activities according to the strategic plan laid out by the European Council." 

The second innovation concerns modifying the voting method. Indeed, unlike in the European Parliament, where a simple majority vote is utilized, the voting system in the Council reflects the “weight” of each State in order for a law to represent the voice of the majority of the population of European citizens and the Member States’ influence. This is defined as the "weighted vote". In order to avoid the States with a “big weighted vote” to form a bloc within the Council, the treaties affirm that European decisions could only be adopted by a specific majority (qualified majority). This system requires a joint approach between big and small States. 

The Constitution will replace this system with a clearer and more democratic one, based on the dual majority of the States and population. A law will be adopted within the Council if it meets the approval of at least 55% of the Union's Member States (ie EU27 = 15 Member States) representing at least 65% of the Union's population. This new system is both democratic but also more efficient in comparison with the one established in the Nice Treaty. It facilitates the creation of majorities and therefore decision-making, which is vital in a Union of 25 members.

A European Foreign Affairs Minister

The Constitution heralds the creation of a European Foreign Affairs Minister. It merges the present functions of the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, a position presently held by Javier Solana, and the European Commissioner for External Relations, a position presently held by Ms. Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Consequentially, this change will enhance the coherence and the unity of the European Union’s external affairs. Appointed by the European Council and invested by the European Parliament, he will be the Vice President of the European Commission and will preside over the Council for Foreign Affairs within the Council of Ministers. 

The European Parliament: a strengthened institution

The European Constitution increases the powers of the European Parliament, both in legislative, budgetary and political control, increasing the democratization of the European Union (see link with Sheet 1).

Regarding its content, the Constitution satisfies the requests of small countries to increase their representation, thereby explaining the increase in the minimum number of MP's from 4 to 6. However the maximum number of Euro MP's is limited to 750. Consequentially, the number of Germany’s representatives decreases from 99 to 96, while the number of seats held by the UK and France remains the same. These will be the rules governing the composition of the European Parliament as of 2009.

The Court of Justice

This institution is responsible for the respect and interpretation of Union law across its entire territory and for the settlement of any conflicts between Member States, the Union and the Member States, and also between the institutions and private parties throughout the European Union.


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