Conference: New impetus for Europe? A balance of the German EU Council Presidency

Madrid 12 de julio de 2007

The Foundation INCIPE, together with two German political foundations which are present in Madrid , the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, hosted a conference on the subject of the 2007 German EU Council Presidency on July 12. The conference, entitled New impetus for Europe ? A balance of the German EU Council presidency, was held at INCIPE Assembly Hall in Madrid.

Prof. Dr. Vicente Garrido Rebolledo, director of INCIPE, and the two directors of the German foundations’ offices in Madrid, Alexander Kallweit (FES) and Michael Däumer (KAS) (director of the Foundation in Spain and Portugal), delivered the opening remarks which they used to emphasize the occasion of the conference: the handing over of the EU presidency.

Both, Prof. Vicente Garrido and Michael Däumer stressed the importance of the German-Spanish collaboration in the EU, particularly in relation to the success achieved at the EU summit on June 22-23. Likewise, they emphasized the noteworthiness of the cooperation between the two German foundations, which are close to their respective political parties, and which a grand coalition in Germany . FES ’ director Alexander Kallweit underlined one of the conference’s intentions, which was to foster dialogue about the EU and so to intensify public support for the European project. Additionally, he explained the selection of the speakers, six politicians from Spain , Germany and Portugal , equally representing the centre-left and the centre-right and who were asked to give their personal evaluations on the topics to be tackled at the conference.

The first panel discussion focused on the question “Angela Merkel’s strategy for Europe – Has the EU gained new operational capacity?” and benefited from the presentations of Alberto Navarro, Secretary of State for European Affairs in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Mário David, former Secretary of State for European Affairs and Member of the Portuguese Parliament; and Barbara Richstein, former Land Ministry and CDU’s Spokeswoman for European Affairs in the regional Parliament of Brandenburg. After some introductory words by the chairman of the panel, Jacques Huchet (Deputy Chief of the European Commission’s Delegation in Spain ), Alberto Navarro assessed the agreement on the Reform Treaty as being the “best that could have been achieved”. Summing up the elements of the Constitutional Treaty which will be kept in the Reform Treaty (exceeding 90 per cent of the CT) and considering the new previsions, such as i.e. the references to climate change, the new role of the national parliaments and the new presidency system, Navarro stated that he is very optimistic about the agreement. According to him, it will provide for more operational efficiency and for more democracy, not least due to the Chart of Fundamental Rights and the amplification of parliamentary decisions.

Likewise, German MoP Barbara Richstein praised the agreement, stating that the Reform Treaty would not be a “light-version” of the Constitutional Treaty. Particularly, she highlighted the achievements in two areas, referring to the Lisbon Strategy and to domestic and security policies. With regards to the Lisbon Strategy, she mentioned the Action Plan on Climate Protection and Energy and the consensus on reducing bureaucracy. Concerning domestic and security policy, she emphasized the previsions accorded on the Prüm Treaty and on the FRONTEX measures and concluded her statement by calling for a better publicity for the European project in order to create a “Europe of citizens”.

Like the previous speakers, EU affairs spokesman in the Portuguese Parliament, Mário David, also expressed his respect for the progress in the treaty process reached during the German Presidency. In his opinion, this progress was decisive to overcome the crisis which he thought to be rather of a psychological than a political nature. Nevertheless, he criticized the agreement for being more complicated and less comprehensible than the Constitutional Treaty. Furthermore, he made some concrete proposals to improve the ENP, suggesting not tackling the issues of EU candidacy and of strategic partnerships with third countries which do not belong geographically to the EU in the same programme. Mr. David, in the debate following his remarks, also underlined the special need to increase the closeness to citizens in order to add legitimacy to the treaty process.

The second panel discussion, which focused on the EU’s Foreign, Security, Defence and Energy policies, was chaired by Alexander Kallweit, director of the FES-office in Madrid , who welcomed German Kurt Bodewig, Portuguese Sonia Sanfona and Spanish Roberto Soravilla (who substituted in the last moment to Ramón de Miguel).

Kurt Bodewig, former Federal Ministry and Deputy Chairman of the EU Affairs Committee in the German Bundestag, expressed to be convinced that the EU had regained its ability to act. However, the Union would have to prove in the next months whether it would be able to act on the global stage in a precise and timely manner. According to him, problems could arise again due to the opposed attitudes of Poland ’s government and UK ’s “euroscepticism”. He recommended that the EU should not adjust to the demands of the opposing forces because this would slow down the proceedings. Concerning external relations, he advocated progress in the negotiations with Turkey ; otherwise the EU would lose credibility. With respect to energy policy, the MoP Kurt Bodewig highly appreciated the consensus reached at the March summit, particularly reinforcing the importance of renewable energies. He also recognized that it would now constitute a great challenge for the Portuguese presidency to create legislative measures in order to comply with the March agreement.

Sonia Sanfona, member of the Defence and for Constitutional Affairs Committees in the Portuguese Parliament, shared Mr. Bodewig’s view concerning the challenges for the Portuguese Presidency. She pointed out the main priorities of the ambitious presidency programme, comprising the reform of the treaty, the external relations, especially the summits with Brazil and Africa , and the Lisbon Strategy. With regard to the Reform Treaty, she stressed that the elaboration should not be underestimated. Furthermore, she attributed special importance to the summits as the EU could benefit from the historical relations Portugal has with Brazil and with some African countries. In the discussion that followed her presentation, she highlighted the strategic importance of the Mediterranean region and recommended to focus not only on the economic cooperation but also on the political dialogue.

Like Sonia Sanfona, Roberto Soravilla, Member of the Spanish Parliament-Senate, also placed special emphasis on the Reform Treaty. He emphasised the necessity to justify the opt-outs in the treaty and the probable change in the mode of ratification, if only 10 per cent of the elements in Constitutional Treaty had been dropped. Moreover, Senator Soravilla advocated a joint Defence Policy and a consensus on the Kosovo case.

The conference concluded with remarks by the Portuguese Ambassador in Spain , José Filipe de Moraes Cabral, who recognized the demanding tasks lying ahead of the Portuguese Presidency. Nevertheless, he was optimistic about Portugal ’s turn, recommending once more fostering the closeness to citizens in order to involve the public in the European project.

n the closure session, the organizers declared themselves satisfied with the results of the conference. KAS’ director Michael Däumer felt the introductory question “New impetus for Europe ?” to be answered in the affirmative. However, he acknowledged that the remarks by the speakers had laid bare exigent tasks to be tackled in the future.

Carolin Sanz Noriega

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