What are the issues?

For over half a century now the countries of the European Union have been at peace. They have common objectives: democracy, stability and growth.

Citizens of the Union enjoy freedom of movement and the rule of law is respected and defended. The European Union is one of the three most prosperous parts of the world, trade barriers have come down, the euro is in place.

Today there are new challenges to be met, which are incentives to the European Union to rethink its role, improve its operation, go down new avenues of progress and democracy.

Europe in the world

In a globalised, yet also highly fragmented world, Europe must shoulder its responsibilities in the governance of globalisation, i.e. in its organisation and operation. The role it has to play is that of a power opposed to violence, terror and fanaticism, sensitive to the injustices of the world and ever ready to act.
In promoting international cooperation, the European Union's aim is to change the course of world affairs in a way which is to the benefit of all.
Europe seeks to set globalisation within a moral framework anchored in solidarity and sustainable development.
Europe cannot take on these ambitious tasks at international level unless it puts in place machinery that will enable it to meet the challenges and speak to the world with a single voice.

What kind of machinery that should be is for the Convention to invent and propose.

The expectations of citizens

The citizens of Europe approve the broad aims of the Union, but they do not always see a connection between those goals and the Union's everyday action. They want the European institutions to be less unwieldy and rigid and, above all, more open.
Many of them feel that the Union should involve itself more with their particular concerns, but without having "a finger in every pie" at every level.
They want better control of the decisions that affect them.

But while they want more openness, more respect, more efficiency and more simplicity, Europeans would
also like to see "more Europe".
They have concerns: about justice and security, action against crime, control of migration flows. They also expect solutions on employment, combating poverty, social exclusion and economic and social cohesion.
They are looking for a common approach on pollution, climate change and food safety.
And they want to see Europe more involved in foreign affairs, security and defence.

In short, citizens look to the European Union for a lead on all of these major problems, and realise that we need to tackle them together.

In formulating their expectations, Europeans confront their leaders and representatives with an apparent paradox: they want a Europe which is simple and clear and respects the competences of all, but they want it to take action in more and more areas.

The European Convention is called on to respond by proposing new ideas and fresh approaches.

Enlargement of the European Union

Fifty years on the Union stands at a crossroads, a defining moment in its existence. The unification of Europe is near. The Union is about to expand to bring in more than ten new Member States, predominantly Central and Eastern European.
This will finally bring to a close one of the darkest chapters in the continent's history. At long last, Europe is on its way, peacefully, to becoming a coherent whole whose members have shared values, ambitions, projects, rules and institutions.

However, that transformation towards a Europe of almost thirty members clearly calls for a different approach from fifty years ago, when six countries first took the lead in establishing the European Union.

But what approach?

Europe is changing, and the operation, rules and the very role of the European Union must change too.
It is that capacity for change which has underpinned the construction of Europe for over fifty years and today it falls to the European Convention to propose ways of adapting and renovating Europe's institutional and political framework.

To do so, it must propose clear and consensual answers to basic questions. Here are some of them:
. How is the division of competence between the Union and the Member States to be organised?
. How can the European institutions' respective tasks be better defined?
. How can the coherence and efficiency of the Union's external action be ensured?
. How can the Union's democratic legitimacy be strengthened?

When it concludes, sometime in 2003, the Convention will submit its proposals to the European Council, in which the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the Union regularly come together for discussions. The next Intergovernmental Conference will work on that basis.

Reference documents :
The Laeken Declaration
Charter of Fundamental Rights

For more information:
Public opinion in Europe
The institutions of the European Union
The European Union in brief and in a few figures