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Kirkhope: Democracy in the European Union

Speech to the European Convention

Mr President, I very much welcome the inclusion of a specific Title promoting the democratic life of the European Union. Much of Title VI I wholeheartedly support and have left unamended, but there are two substantive points and one general appeal I would like to make.

My two substantive points relate to Article 36 on 'Transparency of the proceedings of the Union's institutions'. In paragraph one, I would like the guarantee that "the Union's institutions shall conduct their work as openly as possible" to be strengthened. My suggestions is that they "shall conduct their work openly, unless there are compelling reasons for the matter to be debated 'in camera'." This amendment would, I believe, strengthen the guarantee with which we all should agree.

My second point relates to paragraph four. I agree with the current wording, but would like to suggest an additional sentence to ensure openness and accountability in the European Union. The additional sentence would read as follows: "in the interests of accountability, Members of the European Parliament acting in their representative capacity shall have the right to view any Council, Commission or Parliament document." MEPs are the primary elected representatives in the European Union and I believe that they should be given the task and the tools to guarantee total transparency.

My final appeal is for the use of referenda to enhance the democratic legitimacy of the Union. Naturally, I believe that the final text of this Convention should be put before the people of each Member State in simultaneous referenda, but - crucially - I think this should come before the next intergovernmental conference. And as members of the Convention, we should be drafting the referendum text openly, it must not be drafted in secret meetings with national governments. Our ultimate arbiter is the peoples of Europe: it is they who should be given the opportunity to have their say on our work before it is considered and redrafted by the Council.

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