Last minute victory for the European citizens: The AER congratulates the Irish Presidency
Strasbourg, 21 June 2004
The Assembly of European Regions (AER) has succeeded in its long-term campaign to amend articles of the Constitutional Treaty on the Common Commercial Policy that threatened the quality and free access of European citizens to services of general interest in these areas. The final version of the Treaty, agreed on Friday, includes a last minute addition which states that the Council will act unanimously for the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements in the fields of culture, social, education and health services, where these agreements risk ‘prejudicing the Union’s cultural and linguistic diversity’ or ‘seriously disturbing the national organisation of such services and prejudicing the responsibility of Member States to deliver them’ (Article III-217 (7)).
“Finally it has been recognised that the control of the Member states in these sectors is of crucial importance for the future of Europe. Even if the formula is not fully satisfactory, because of the lack of a clear, legal definition about when unanimity should be used, the AER welcomes the European Council decision. It demonstrates the political will of the Member states to protect services of general interest in these areas from market rules and from being treated as commercial commodities”, said Vice-Minister President Liese Prokop, the AER President. “I would particularly like to thank the Irish Presidency, which recognised the importance of the issue, as well as all the AER member regions and civil society organisations, which supported our campaign” she added.
The AER has always maintained that decisions in these sensitive sectors should be taken by unanimity and not fall within the exclusive competence of the EU under the Common Commercial Policy. These sectors are core national and regional competences and a high quality of service provision is of great importance to the European citizens. Mrs Prokop underlined that “regions were practically alone in their call to safeguard these services. The last minute amendments confirm that the AER concerns were justified. It seems that Member States have finally realised that, contrary to the arguments put forward by the European Commission, international agreements such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) could pose a risk to social, educational, cultural and health services in Europe”.
For more information: [email protected]