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'We need a new Single European Act'

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There is an urgent need to reform the Union's economic and institutional plans. Claude Fischer, leader of European think tank 'Confrontations Europe’, proposes a simplified treaty

Frenchwoman Claude Fischer, 57, is secretary-general of the ‘Confrontations Europe’ association. Founded in 1991, it is one of the most dynamic European think tanks. In the run-up to the European Council meeting, which will be held in Brussels from 21-23 June, everyone is hoping that the Union will be boosted by the revival of institutional reform in particular. One of the leading measures proposed by ‘Confrontations Europe’ is a new Single European Act, based on the Act implemented by Parisian Jacques Delors-led Commission in 1986. Its aim is to strengthen Europe with growth, competitiveness and social cohesion.

Would a simplified treaty, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing, really advance European construction?

Absolutely. It would get rid of the constitutional crisis. It would give the Union the means to fulfil its commitments. Furthermore, this treaty would allow France to come back into Europe. The project represents an important compromise between those who wanted a Constitution and those who did not. Its ratification by the parliaments of the 27 member states would avoid the organisation of national referendums. I believe these to be ‘antidemocratic’, insofar as they are ultimately transformed into a de facto veto power for populations.

But will the text be sufficient, particularly if a charter of fundamental rights is not added?

Definitely not. But if we do not have this mini-treaty, we will not have institutional reform and it will be impossible to move forward. We need to go forward on two feet. The treaty is one foot, with the second being the promotion of joint policies and the completion of the internal market.

Do you think that intergovernmental action will be more effective to unite European construction, or do you think the European Parliament should have greater responsibility?

I am not opposed to intergovernmental action. Instead, I am in favour of strengthening their responsibility and legitimacy, along with that of the Commission. I believe it to be the institution which best defends EU interests. I would like to see stronger institutions, even though that is not enough: there has to be greater participation by civil society, which must come together on an international scale.

Are we at risk of creating a multi-speed Europe?

Why? On the contrary, Europe has always been multi-speed. It was much more unequal before the successive enlargements of the EU. There were the Western countries and the Eastern countries, not to mention the social fractures within each country. Who can deny that all of these countries are now developing, for the greater good of their people and ours?

We have to work to be more competitive and favour co-operations between communes, regions and countries, to strengthen solidarity and cohesion. In order to do this, it is becoming urgent a) to increase the communitary budget to 2% of GDP with their own resources, (compared to the current level of 1%); and b) to restructure the Lisbon strategy, which wants to make Europe the world’s most competitive knowledge society.

Is your proposition of a new Single European Act compatible with the simplified treaty that Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing?

Of course. On the condition that we do not get stuck there and open the debate on the future. We are proposing a long-term approach. Firstly, our aim is the approval of a simplified treaty, which Philippe Herzog, president of Confrontations Europe, has been proposing since the referendum was rejected in France in 2005.

Next, the establishment of a new Single European Act for co-operation and participation, i.e. a contract between countries, intended to favour societies’ participation in the creation of joint policies: energy and transport; education, research and innovation in Europe; a flexible and secure European labour market. Obviously we will also have to face the challenges of an ageing population and immigration.

What are the main economic reforms to be undertaken in Europe?

We need an industrial and financial policy which attracts the financial markets and convinces them to invest in industry, instead of speculating. A macroeconomic policy is also indispensable, but this cannot be set up without foundations, i.e. an integrated internal market with European public assets and European players.

Which method would you recommend to implement all of this?

The Single Act involves objectives, an agenda and a method. We will be holding discussions in 2007, ratifying the Act in 2008 and implementing it between 2009 and 2014. How? The European Council is giving a mandate to the Commission to create working groups which are open to members of civil society (companies, territories, syndicates, universities, NGOs). They report back to national and European parliaments.

It is all a process, and the only way to bring about the project for a new constitution for a more open Europe, extended to the Balkans and next to Turkey, to 'form a society in Europe.'

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Translated from « Nous avons besoin d’un nouvel Acte unique »