Adopted on 28th February 2018

On 28 February 2018, the Greens/EFA Group adopted, for the first time, a comprehensive Position on the future of the EU in all constitutional matters. 

Short-term: Restoring confidence and strengthening democratic legitimacy

1) Protecting the public interest by controlling the influence of the private interests

A functioning democracy needs rules to ensure public decisions are made in the public interest, transparently and are not compromised by abusive lobbying activities and conflicts of interests. In order to separate political power from strong economic interests, the Greens/EFA propose the creation of a High Authority in charge of verifying the financial interests of MEPs, Commissioners, members of cabinets and relevant civil servants. Those who hold public office or mandate have to cool-off before taking new jobs in the field of lobbying.

The EU lobby register has to become mandatory and apply not only to Commission and Parliament but also to the Council of Member States.  We propose to make the legislative footprint mandatory for all EU laws, in order for the citizens to know how decisions are made and by whom they are influenced, and the introduction of ambitious transparency and access to documents rules, including documents related to international negotiations.

2) Making the Council accountable, transparent and more democratic

The EU must not anymore serve as scapegoat for Member States that do not want to assume their political choices in front of their public opinions. This reduces the democratic legitimacy of public decisions and increases the mistrust towards the EU institutions. Council’s activities should be as transparent as European Parliament’s activities. The positions defended by the representatives of the Member States, already at the level of the Working Groups of the Council, should be made public in order for the citizens, media and civil society to know what position their government took on their behalf at the EU level and in order for national parliaments to enhance their scrutiny of EU decision making. This should apply to all decisions, from legislative files to implementing and delegated acts. The use of secrecy exceptions for Council documents should be applied in a coherent  system with external oversight. For more personal accountability, the currently active specialised legislative Council configurations should become preparatory bodies for a single legislative Council, meeting in public, similarly to the functioning of the committees in the European Parliament. The Council should invite Parliamentarians to attend its meetings as observers. Besides becoming transparent, the Council should also overcome the impotency resulting from unanimity rule. Tax convergence, fight against tax dumping, tax fraud and tax evasion, decision on our common  resources via the Multiannual Financial Framework, all those areas often lead to the lowest common denominator because of unanimity rule, to the detriment of social justice and wealth redistribution. There is a real danger that important reforms and the deepening of European cooperation and solidarity are blocked by a minority in the Council. We must overcome this deadlock by fully applying, wherever possible, the ordinary legislative procedure with qualified majority voting in the Council and the full involvement of the European Parliament in EU law making. We must therefore use article 48.7 of the TUE to switch from unanimity for qualified majority voting in all possible domains. Apart from this general passerelle clause we must also exploit more systematically the specific passerelle clauses provided for in the treaty, for instance on social policies (article 152.2 TFEU), energy supply (article 73 192 TFEU) and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (article 31.3 TFEU). We must also without delay use the provisions of Article 312(2) TFEU when adopting the forthcoming MFF Regulation to switch from unanimity to qualified majority voting. Article 116 TFEU shall be used in order to eliminate the tax competition between the Member States. Moreover, in areas where qualified majority voting already exists, Member States must make full use of this possibility. Enhanced cooperation, as provided for in the Treaties and as long as others can join any time, can also be a useful way forward if progress otherwise is not possible.  Those simple measures would already make a big difference in our collective capacity to act in such important areas.

3) Truly European elections for a truly European Parliament

Despite being directly elected by EU citizens for 35 years, the European Parliament still suffers from a lack of recognition of its legitimacy. The legal fragmentation of European elections by 28 different sets of national laws splits up the formation of lists and programs and encourages nationally framed European  elections. Today, European parties can campaign with contradictory national manifestos and avoid truly European debates on these differences although they belong to one party family.

The practice of choosing leading candidates improved the transparency and accountability of parties, but a further harmonization of electoral rules is necessary, including criteria for gender-balanced lists. The common European Electoral law should include the basic features of any electoral system and shall be based on the principle of digressive proportionality while respecting the European diversity. Moreover, in order to foster a European public sphere, Greens/EFA propose the creation of transnational lists, that we have a unique opportunity to create by using seats of the United Kingdom. This would be a first step before a broader transnational list in 2024.

4) Taking citizens participation and the rule of law seriously

The promise to give citizens a genuine right to initiate EU legislation through the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) instrument has not  been fulfilled yet. Because of bureaucratic hurdles and administrative burdens and of poor political reaction from the Commission, this ECI tend to be progressively given up by citizens. The forthcoming review of the ECI regulation is a unique chance to strengthen the opportunities for EU’s citizens to have a direct say on EU legislation. It should ensure procedures are simplified and a real political follow-up is given to ECI that reach a million signatures. The European Democracy has to defend its citizens and free media against governments grabbing for excessive control and blurring the separation of powers in the West and the East of our Union. We need stronger instruments for securing our core principles and the rule of law in the EU, in particular a binding and comprehensive mechanism to monitor regularly the state of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in all EU Member States by an independent expert commission. In addition, judicial  review of fundamental rights by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should be expanded by making the European Charter of Fundamental Rights directly applicable in all areas and all Member States. This would give national courts the opportunity to ask the ECJ for a preliminary ruling also in areas which are beyond EU legislation such as judicial independence and media freedom. Currently, judicial review of fundamental rights by the ECJ is limited to the implementation of EU law. Moreover, we believe that the EU needs a truly binding mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights and should initiate, whenever those rights are violated at national level, infringements procedures on the basis of Article 2 (TEU) and, when necessary, make use of the mechanisms foreseen in Article 7 (TEU).

5) Using the potential of subsidiarity through a constructive alliance of parliaments

No Member State can effectively tackles alone the big challenges of our times such as climate change, security, globalisation, and digitalisation. Decisions have nevertheless to be taken at that level which is best placed to respond to the challenge at hand, which is closest to the citizens and which has the greatest legitimacy. The European Union we envisage is a union in which national sovereignty is pooled for responding to challenges which Member States can tackle more effectively together, and which respects the principle of subsidiarity according to which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizens. In order to make it successful, the European Parliament must cooperate more closely and on a more regular basis with national and regional parliaments. National and regional parliaments need to strengthen their European capacity. A federal Union cannot be built against national and regional parliaments. We need to find a fair and efficient way to create a parliamentary collaboration. The current system of subsidiarity, whereby the national parliaments can show a ‘yellow card’ to proposals  for new EU legislation in case they feel the principle of subsidiarity is not respected, is simply not working  properly. The yellow card system has been in existence since 2009 but threshold for forcing the Commission to reconsider the proposal has only been reached three times. There are many ways to  strengthen this system starting with giving more time to respond to national Parliaments. As Greens/EFA, we propose the introduction of a green card for national and regional parliaments with  legislative powers and of basic democratic features in the different countries to make sure the parliaments control the position taken by their Member States in the Council and in the Eurogroup and to avoid that national governments misuse the EU for imposing policies, for which they do not find a majority at home, via the EU level.

6) Paving the way for a solidarity-based Union

We managed to build a European monetary union, but without a fiscal capacity and a democratic  governance, our system cannot work, neither from an economic and social perspective nor from a political one. Some institutional changes are necessary in order to make wealth redistribution possible and the monetary union work for all, to better fight social and economic injustices, to invest in ecological transition, education, public services, to fund civil society organisations, to ensure new digital monopolies effectively pay taxes, to guarantee minimum converging social standards and to ensure this is done democratically. We want the European Parliament, the only directly elected EU institution, to become the central place for political decisions in the Union. The Parliament should remain the only parliamentary representation of all EU citizens. We oppose side-parliaments for the Euro but argue for a committee for the Euro inside of the European Parliament. We therefore propose to increase the role of the European Parliament in the EU's economic governance system and to ensure national parliaments are more involved. Economic and fiscal policy set at the European level must be co-decided by the European Parliament and seriously take into account the view of social partners. In order to do so, the intergovernmental structures of the Eurozone such as the ESM must be deeply reformed and fully integrated into the EU and become fully accountable to the Parliament. In  addition, the Eurogroup should become fully transparent and be submitted to the Council’s rules of procedure. This includes the voting procedures, publication of minutes, results and explanations of votes and its deliberations should be public. The Presidency of the Eurogroup, of the Council formation on Economic and Financial affairs (ECOFIN) could become the double-hat for the Vice-President of the Commission responsible for the Euro. This person should be individually elected, fully accountable to and replaceable by the European Parliament. S/he could be given new competences to coordinate economic and fiscal policies of Member States and a budget to become a European Finance Minister. In this democratic framework, a fiscal capacity for the Eurozone members plus other EU members willing to join shall be created within the EU budget via enhanced cooperation to serve common investments. Those investments should be financed with a system of own resources but also by ending the tax competition with tax cooperation. Even without a change of treaties, framework minimum rules for social security are  possible, e.g. through a Minimum Income Directive. Therefore, work must start on the establishment of  automatic stabilizers at eurozone level, opened to any Member State willing to join, such as an  unemployment (re)insurance scheme or a rainy days fund and also on a minimum income system, set at 60% of national median income.. We also need to adopt an enhanced common approach to corporate taxation a Financial Transaction Tax should be created and we also urgently need to restructure Greek debt and start an immediate work on a roadmap for the gradual mutualisation of public debt between the Eurozone countries. All this is already doable by using the potential of our current treaties.

Long-term perspective: Building a truly European democracy

7) A Constituent process

In the long run, the current institutional framework needs to be changed. Too many essential policies are  difficult or impossible to put in place because of a lack of competences, of resources or because of national vetoes. In order to become a stronger democracy, the EU needs a concise and comprehensible Constitution that  protects citizens' fundamental rights, defines European institutions and their respective powers, describes  the legal procedures and lays down the distribution of competences between the different levels. This Constitution cannot be prepared by Heads of States and Governments in the framework of an intergovernmental conference. It is more than time to give EU citizens the opportunity to elaborate together, through a democratic constituent process, allowing a wide, open and collaborative phase, the  text that will organize their society. A gender-balanced constituent Assembly should be elected and the text it will prepare shall be validated through a European-wide referendum, according to a double majority system: a qualified majority of states  and a majority of European citizens.

8) Our option: A bicameral parliamentary system for the future European federation

In Europe, both common interest of the whole EU and specific interest of Member-States and regions have to be represented. This is the fundamental principle of federalism: a balance between unity and diversity, and this is the reason why we want a federal Europe. This federal Europe will have the European Commission as its government. The candidates for the Presidency of the Commission will compete as leading candidates on the transnational lists. Like in any parliamentarian system, the President of the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament on the basis of a political majority and a political agenda. The composition of a smaller, more political and gender-balanced Commission, including notably a Minister for Foreign Affairs, a Finance Minister, a Minister for Social affairs, will then be freely determined by the President of the Commission without any interference from the Member States and appointed by the European Parliament, following a reinforced process of hearings. The Parliament should have the right to replace the President of the Commission with a new one. Equipped with a fully-fledge right of initiative, the European Parliament will decide on an equal footing with the second Chamber (today the Council) on the budget and European legislation. The ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision between the EP and the Chamber representing the federated entities) applies on every legislative file. The EP should also have the right to request a launch of infringement procedures.  The second Chamber representing the Member States and, where relevant, regions, forms the legislature together with the European Parliament. It shall exclusively exercise legislative functions. It shall be composed of representatives of the governments or Parliaments, including where it is relevant at regional level, of the Member States. This democratic Union will have a consequent and own-resources based budget to be decided in normal legislative procedure.

9) European Pillars of Civic, Economic, Social and Environmental rights

Today, the EU has the power to adopt legislations and enforce rules in many sectors but it lacks  competences to ensure Member States provide satisfactory public services, finance public investment  through fair taxation, fight against social and environmental injustices and inequalities, guarantee  fundamental rights and freedom. However, If specific policies will not be mentioned in the Constitution, the Constitution should guarantee some fundamental and opposable rights and objectives for the Union, related to civic, economic, social and environmental rights. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and such additional rights should apply also to the Member States actions and citizens should be able to defend them in the European Court of Justice. This will give competences to the EU to act in those areas and to react whenever those rights are violated in the Union. The Union would then have the power to ensure gender equality and women rights are fully respected and advocated for on all its territory and that all sorts of discrimination are combated, that free movement of persons is always protected, that press freedom is ensured, that media pluralism is respected, that access to common goods is guaranteed, that public services are rightly provided etc.

10) An active European citizenship

All citizens of the EU enjoy the right to work or study in another Member State. Many EU citizens have been living in another Member State for years. They must enjoy the same right to vote in national, regional and European elections as citizens of that Member State. The EU should get the competence to define the framework conditions for EU citizenship. It should set the conditions for becoming a European citizen (such as minimum years of residence) and it should intervene in case Member States grant citizenship rights on the basis of inappropriate criteria (golden visa). In the long run, a European citizenship shall be granted by the EU, and no longer be a derivative of the national citizenship, called "citizenship of the EU", to any individual living on the territory of the EU, irrespective of her/his nationality. A European citizen shall be granted the same rights and duties in its country of residence than a national citizen.

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