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The European Convention, sometimes known as the Convention on the Future of Europe, was a body established by the European Council in December 2001 as a result of the Laeken Declaration. Its purpose was to produce a draft constitution for the European Union for the Council to finalise and adopt. The Convention finished its work in July 2003. See History of the European Constitution for developments after this point.
Origins at Nice
The Convention has its origins in the Nice European Council held in December 2000. This summit sought agreement on a process of revising the existing treaties on which the European Union was founded, as a prelude to enlargement. A consensus emerged about the need to begin a "broader and deeper debate" on the future of the EU, and consequently the Council adopted a declaration on the future of the union annexed to the Treaty of Nice. The process was intended to commence with a phase of open debate before the European Council met in Laeken the following year, when a better idea of what was required would have emerged.
The declaration adopted at Nice set out four main themes to be addressed:
- How to achieve a more precise delimitation of powers between the European Union and its member states, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.
- The status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights proclaimed at Nice.
- How to simplify the existing treaties in order to clarify their meaning.
- The role of national parliaments in the European Union.
The Laeken Declaration
In December 2001, when the European Council met in Laeken, a fresh declaration was adopted committing the EU to greater democracy, transparency and efficiency, and setting out the process by which a constitution could be arrived at. This was to be achieved by a convention, which was intended to comprise the main 'stakeholders', in order to examine questions about the future direction of the EU. It was to produce a draft constitution to be handed over to the Intergovernmental Conference, scheduled for 2004, which would finalise a new treaty.
Work of the Convention
The European Convention was established with 105 members, chaired by former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Most of its members were drawn from the national parliaments of member states and candidate countries, as well as representatives of heads of state and government. The Convention met for the first time in February 2002, and met thereafter in plenary session once or twice per month.
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