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Schadenfreude: How do you change a European Union Treaty?

How do you change a European Union Treaty, asks Schadenfreude, our secret correspondent in Brussels?

1.You draw up your wish list of the changes you want to make. You, keep your preparations hush hush – for example if you have a public review of the balance of competences you hint that it will not necessarily be the guide to what you want.

2. You lay your list before Parliament and seek an affirmative vote, which may take time. You start a domestic campaign to gather support. This may involve changes in your list.

3. At a meeting of the European Council (heads of State and Government) you present  your list (which you have already  circulated bilaterally).  You start a domestic campaign to gather support.

4. You explain orally in the European Council what you want. Others comment or keep their peace.

5. The President of the European Council (independent person) asks the serving Presidency of the General Council of (foreign) Ministers to arrange for your proposals to be discussed. Your diplomatic service continues to lobby in capitals. You take opportunities to talk selectively to Heads of State or Government bilaterally.

6. You meet the President of the Commission to explain your objectives. You brief fully the British Member of the Commission, who will be a key player.

7. At the next meeting of the Council of Ministers you explain in more detail the intentions behind your wish list.  The President of the Council of Ministers announces that your list will be examined by senior officials from the Member States, in conjunction with the Commission.

8. The Chairman of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (“Coreper”, national ambassadors) places your proposals on the agenda of his Committee, with the Commission present. (Alternatively an ad hoc Committee of national experts might be set up.)

9. The President of the Commission, having discussed the question with the Commissioners, instructs Commission officials to prepare the line the Commission will take in the Coreper (or other) discussion.

10.After several rounds, Coreper  reports its findings, which may not be unanimous, to the Council of Ministers (foreign Ministers).  The Council, in several rounds, draws up conclusions and reports them to the European Council.

11. The European Council, after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission decides, by majority, what action is to be taken on your wish list. Meanwhile the Commission has kept the European Parliament informed of the proceedings. The Parliament can be expected to debate and vote conclusions, reached by majority.

12.. If in principle Treaty changes are required in response to the decisions taken on your wish list – by now probably modified – the President of the European Council arranges a meeting of a Conference of the Member States (possibly in the same composition as the European Council.)

13.  The Conference of the Member States decides by “common accord”  what effect, if any, is to be given to your proposals.  The Commission participates. You defend your proposals or accept compromises on some of them. If there is no overarching agreement among the Member States you have to decide whether you move towards withdrawal from the EU or find new compromises.

14. With a result obtained, you put it to In/Out referendum with a reecommendationn to the voters. If the vote is out, you drop the preparatory work and begin the preparations for withdrawal.

15. The Conference, jointly with the Commission, reports the outcome to the European Parliament  for a ratification vote. The Parliament may call for changes.  If meanwhile the British referendum is against membership on the terms secured, the whole procedure winds down, unless other Member States want some of the changes. You meanwhile prepare the notice of withdrawal.  There are no handy precedents to show how to withdraw.

16. The Legal Services of the Council and of the Commission draft amendments, if any, to the Lisbon Treaty in conformity with the conclusions of the conference,, if any.

17. TheTreaty amendments, if  any,  must be ratified by all Member States using their own procedures including  parliamentary ratification and by the European Parliament.

How long will all this take ? You will be lucky to get through it in a year.



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