Strasbourg (F), 15 June 2004
In a letter to the Assembly of European Regions (AER), UK Minister for Europe Denis MacShane, sets out the UK Government’s intention to give up core decision-making powers in the fields of culture, education, audiovisual, health and social services during the final round of negotiations on the European Constitution. The Assembly of European Regions calls upon the Intergovernmental Conference not to support the line followed by the UK government and to retain national sovereignty over these policy areas.
“There are some sectors that should not be completely regulated by the Union, due to the specific situations in the member states and to the need to foster diversity, which is Europe’s greatest asset for enhancing flexibility, creativity and innovation. All regulations ultimately entail a certain degree of harmonization. It is important that there remain some political sectors in which the competences of the member states and regions are not limited by submitting the policies to the decision of a majority, however large that majority may be”, declares the AER Secretary-General Klaus Klipp.
The AER, referring in particular to the already apparent negative results of the GATS-Process, expresses the fear that the transfer of additional regulatory powers to the Union will only enhance the processes of deregulation, liberalization and privatisation of public services. The AER is concerned that any moves towards enforced liberalisation of public services would limit regional authorities’ decision-making powers over these key areas.
It is important that democratically elected politicians within local and regional authorities can continue to make decisions about public services and remain accountable to the electorate for those services. The question has to be asked whether, in the current political environment, in which the citizens of Europe have demonstrated their mistrust in the European institutions through their refusal to go to the ballot box in the European Parliament elections, the surrender of decision-making powers to the European level really serves the interests of democracy.
In view of the opposition of the UK Government to Qualified Majority Vote in areas such as Security and Defence and Financial policy, the AER comes to the conclusion that obviously the UK government believes that policies for Culture, Education, Health and Social Affairs are better off in the hands of the European Institutions than at the level of national and regional governments.
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