European Union: Powerful Delors Now Shares Centre Stage
Marshall, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
BRUSSELS - From today, the Commission which Jacques Delors leads, one of the most powerful institutions in the European Union, will have to share centre stage under the terms of the Maastricht treaty.
The European Union includes the EC and all its activities. But it also includes two new "pillars": the new common foreign and security policy, and the new common home and justice affairs policy, which are intergovernmental rather than part of the EC. The Union includes all the institutions of the EC, but in general, keeps the Commission and Parliament out of decision-making in the two new pillars.
Under Maastricht, the EC component of the Union - run by the Commission - which deals mainly with social and economic issues, will have increased powers. Its competence will include new areas such as economic and monetary policy, industry, and trans-European networks. Other competences are expanded, on transport, social policy, economic and social cohesion, research and development and the environment. Mr Delors wants to harness these increased powers.
The decision-making powers of the EC have also been changed, making agreement between member states easier. Since the foundation of the Community, voting rules have been gradually changed to remove national vetos and shift towards the requirement that most states agree to a proposal. Qualified majority voting is extended under Maastricht to a number of policy areas, leaving unanimity the absolute rule in very few.
The European Parliament has been given an increased part to play, allowing it to block legislation in some areas. It is likely to use these powers to take a more influential role in decision-making.
The treaty is an unwieldy instrument. Though it is supposed to be another step on the road to "an ever-closer union", it is unclear as yet how the new set-up will differ from the Community. The single currency, at the heart of the treaty, now seems unlikely before the end of the century. Mr Delors has clearly signalled that he wants to fill this vacuum by using the Union as a vehicle for economic revival.
But the member states, at a summit on Friday in Brussels, pointed a different way forward. Immigration and police matters seemed to be a high priority. A six-point action programme will set in place tighter co-operation on organised crime, fighting drugs, dealing with asylum-seekers, setting up common visas, easing extradition and combating illegal immigration. …