Ministers for European Affairs meet at La Granja (Segovia). EFE
The Spanish State Secretary for European Affairs, Diego López Garrido, stated at the close of the first day of the informal meeting of ministers for European Affairs, currently taking place in La Granja, that the Spanish presidency has received the “full support” of the 27 Member States for the promotion of the citizens’ legislative initiative. The ministers’ backing also extends to the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and the development of the solidarity clause.
The three initiatives are set forth in the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December of last year. The Spanish presidency, which considers the implementation of the Treaty a priority, aims to give EU action a citizen-centred approach.
The citizens’ legislative initiative enables one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States to call directly on the European Commission to bring forward a proposal for new legislation that is of interest to them in an area they believe should be regulated at the European level.
The ministers agreed that the “significant number of Member States” will be one third of the total. They also discussed the matter of signature authentication and the time at which an initiative is to be admitted, with the aim of preventing fraudulent use of the system as well as proposals that are contrary to the values of the Union.
“Today we have started debating on an element that will bring extraordinary progress to citizens’ participation,” stated the Spanish State Secretary.
Speaking on the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, he said that all the representatives who spoke at the meeting had voiced their support for the EU’s signing of the document and for the necessary negotiations with the Council of Europe to commence.
The ministers also backed the idea that “solidarity should guide Europe in the 21st century”. In the solidarity clause the Treaty of Lisbon lays down the necessary legal basis that allows the Member States and the Union to assist one another in the event of a terrorist attack or a disaster of any other origin, whether natural or human.
The Spanish presidency expressed its satisfaction with the progress of the sessions, which included the presentation of the priorities for the General Affairs Council, one of the ten configurations of the Council of the European Union.
“I have received the solid support of all the EU Member States, represented by their ministers, who have also shown me their willingness to take on an agenda that is full of ambitious and inspiring initiatives,” said the Spanish State Secretary in his appearance before the press at the end of the working day.
The ministers also addressed the issue of the creation of the European External Action Service, which they agreed should be constituted on the basis of geographical and institutional balance. All the Member States should be suitably represented, as well as the Commission, the Parliament and the Council.
During the midday meal the representatives were addressed by the president of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe, Felipe González, who stressed the need for closer cooperation in the field of civil law, so that a genuine area of Security, Freedom and Justice may be created in which people may feel European citizens.