(Re)negotiating EU treaties: Lessons for David – from Angie and François

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EUCO2016_EUref_tineurope_v2It is not the first time in recent European integration history that a single national leader has expressed the desire to (re)negotiate something.[1] Angela Merkel did so in 2007-2009 when she wanted to save the main elements of the Constitutional Treaty. The German Chancellor once again, singlehandedly (or nearly), fought for a treaty, albeit a much smaller one, the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (“Fiscal Compact”) which was negotiated in less than six weeks at the end of 2011 and in early 2012. And, a few months later, François Hollande ran his presidential campaign with the demand to renegotiate that very treaty.

I want to focus on a tiny question[2]: What can David Cameron learn from his two fellow members of the European Council, Angela Merkel and François Hollande?

It is most important to get a pledge from all Heads of State and Government supporting one’s main preferences.

The German Chancellor did so twice and at the appropriate time: 1) in the Berlin Declaration of March 2007 “Wir sind zu unserem Glück vereint” and later when the mandate for the treaty negotiations was agreed in June 2007 (even the Polish President Lech Kaczyński signed up), and 2) at the European Council of December 2011 – the British Prime Minister was the victim… No, sorry, he “vetoed”! – when the Conclusions provided the basis for the intergovernmental negotiations that followed. Is this easy? No! François Hollande did not achieve such a thing: his “renegotiation” of the Fiscal Compact Treaty only led to the “Compact for Growth and Jobs” without any treaty implication.

In reality, such a compact might be the maximum that David Cameron can achieve within the desired timeframe (2017?). This would also be a result that can be presented in a referendum, if this compact (call it “Compact for a better Europe”? – other ideas welcome) does not turn out to be an empty promise too early.

Alternatively, the British Prime Minister could aim for a declaration similar to the Berlin Declaration. The outgoing Secretary General of the Council of the European Union, Uwe Corsepius, might be able to give Britain a hand when he is the EU advisor of the German Chancellor again: He was the architect of that declaration. The United Kingdom only holds the Council Presidency in the second half of 2017, so what about a Valetta Declaration under Maltese Council Presidency in March 2017 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome? Whatever that declaration may contain in terms of its actual content.

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[1] We leave aside the question whether that “treaty” is a real EU treaty or (only) a treaty outside the EU treaties, based on international law.

[2] On the big question, there is very good advice for the British Prime Minister from CER, ECFR, SWP and other think-tanks which covers the entire negotiation strategy and the referendum – and there are Jon Worth’s excellent “parameters“.

UPDATE 17 May 2015: The new image is from my own tweet:

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