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Kirkhope: Bilateral Treaties not Enhanced Integration

Speech to the European Convention

Mr President, I would like to discuss Article I-43 on enhanced cooperation.

I passionately believe that Member States should be able to cooperate together in areas falling outside the competence of the European Union. My question to those who oppose this proposition is: How can we legitimately talk about national sovereignty if we attempt to prevent other countries from exercising their national sovereignty? Therefore I believe there is a need for a mechanism to allow Member States to cooperate together outside the Union.

The mechanism I would suggest is through bilateral and multilateral treaties. I propose that Article I-43 paragraph 1 should be amended to read: "Member States wishing to cooperate in areas which are not competences of the Community may do so on a bilateral or multilateral basis. This cooperation will be recognised but not administered by the Community."

And paragraph 4 should stress that "Any agreements adopted on this basis shall only bind those Member States taking part in such cooperation. They shall not be regarded as an acquis, which has to be accepted by candidates for accession to the Community, because they are independent bilateral or multilateral agreements rather than European Community law."

Independent cooperation is, I believe, the way forward because enhanced cooperation as a process has been abused in the past as a trail-blazing mechanism with a bent to further integration beyond the Treaties. In fact, the first paragraph of the current Article I-43 says as much: "Enhanced cooperation shall aim to further the objectives of the Union, protect its interests and reinforce its integration process."

As I have said on previous occasions, participation in core issues such as the single market, the environment and some transport matters, for example, should be compulsory. But there are other issues such as the European Defence Force and the common asylum and immigration policy should be dealt with on a bilateral basis to avoid the ratchet effect of enhanced cooperation.

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