Crocodile Club

Di Spinelli Altiero - 7 luglio 1981

Crocodile Club


by Altiero Spinelli

SUMMARY: One year after the foundation of the Crocodilc Club, Spinelli prcscnts to the House the results of his efforts to mobilize the European Parliament by using the key-word “constituent”.

After the initial difficulties raiscd by a number of Groups have been overcome and the motion for a resolution prepared by the Club has been presented to the President of the European Parliament, bearing the signatures of 170 members, the motion is now examined in the Housc, which approves it on 9 July 1981 with 164 votes in favour, 24 against and 2 abstentions. Spinelli had taken action during the months prior to the vote to persuade the political groups rapidly to implement the procedure planned by the Crocodilc Club (an ad hoc committec) with a view to drawing up the necessary institutional reforms which, in his opinion, should constitute the central theme of the 1984 European electoral campaign.

The internal requirements of the political groups prevail ovcr the clear necessity to impose a Parliament strategy for the 1984 elections. Thus the new Committee, known as the Committee on Institutional Affairs, is not set up until January 1982, when all the internal authorities of the Parliamcnt (Prcsidcnt, Vicc-Presidents, and Presidcnts of the Parliament Committees) arc renewed at the time of the “constitutive session” half-way through the legislative period and the duties of the new Committee are included within the wider task of balancing political and national requirements.

At the same sitting on 9 July 1981, the European Parliament examines a number of reports prepared by the Political Affairs Committee, concerning inter-institutional relations (Parliament-Council, Parliament-national parliaments, etc.) as part of the so callcd “small steps” approach put forward as an alternative to the strategy of institutional refonn upon which the action of the Crocodile Club is cantered. “Speeches in European Parliament, 1976-1986”, Pier Virgilio Dastoli Editor. (EP, 7 July 1981)

Madam President, on behalf of 180 Members of differing political attitudes and national origins, I request this Assembly to approve the resolution entitled. ‘The creation of an ad hoc committee to present proposals on the state and the evolution of the Community’.

This request does not stem from an impulsive irritation occasioned by the difficulties now assailing the Community. It is no mere improvisation; the parlementarians of the ‘Crocodile Club’ began to study its terms a full year ago, and during that year the discussion has extended far beyond the confines of the Club, provoking support, uncertainty, mediation, and investigation. Nor its our request premature, for exactly two years have now passed since the elected Parliament began its work, and each of us has had an opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by the European structures as they are today: their limits, the profound and growing contradiction between what the Community should be and what it is. Finally, this request is not overdue, for nearly three years still separate us from the next European elections: time enough to enable ourselves to face the electors’ judgment without being obliged to admit to them that we have only expressed 789 opinions on a wide variety of issues, and that very litt

le attention was paid to any of them. In such a case what would we deserve but indifference?

Now, as we prepare ourselves to vote upon this resolution, voices are being raised - and have been for some time - insistent and authoritative, proclaiming the need for new Community tasks: a much greater social commitment, a vigorous common policy to combat unemployment and inflation, a strong effort to fight hunger and encourage world development, a common monetary policy more uniform than that operative in the first phase of the EMS, the return to the project of a political union enabling us to contribute towards establishing world peace and to pursue the common foreign policy upon which our security should be based. And with this the list of tasks to be accomplished is by no means complete. It is not an awareness of the Community’s new tasks that is lacking. What is lacking is the ability to deal with them effectively at the proper time; often it is impossible to deal with them at all using the Community institutions as they exist today.

At this moment, a crucial one for Europe and for our Assembly, this resolution calls upon us to decide whether we of the European Parliament, in the name of the peoples of the Community who elected us, are able to assume the responsibility of discussing, drawing up, voting upon, and presenting for ratification by the constitutional bodies of each Member State a draft treaty containing the outline of the Community’s new tasks and the institutional reforms they imply. If Parliament lacks the courage to assume this political responsibility now without losing too much time, without vacillating - the issue of the reform of the various treaties and conventions concerning European unification, an issue that cannot long be avoided, will of necessity be referred to others, to the diplomatic services of the Member States, who will doubtless once again discover that intergovernmental cooperation is uncertain and almost completely unproductive. Parliament would be left with a futile role: that of expressing opinions and

then complaining because the diplomats pay no attention to them.

If we do assume this responsibility, as I hope we will, we must do it in the knowledge that we are merely indicating the beginning of an initiative which will join all the others, be conducted like the others, and share their melancholy fate. In approving this resolution, we must be aware that we are starting a fresh new chapter in the life of our Assembly, that we are initiating an audacious political action which will be long, complex, and difficult, and which will not exempt us from pursuing our current activities, although it reaches far beyond them.

In order that this new chapter may bring success, we should first of all seek increasingly to involve the efforts of the entire Parliament. For this reason we request that a new parliamentary committee be created, a committee which, irrespective of its final appellation, will deal only with this issue. The committee will eventually present interim reports calling upon Parliament to decide among the existing options and to seek, through broad debates, the widest possible consensus, so that each of us may be fully aware of everything contained or implied in the project of reform when the final vote is taken.

In the second place, in order for this initiative to succeed it must be extended beyond the confines of this Chamber. There must be frequent meetings between the ad hoc committee and the Assembly to inform public opinion and to involve each political group and each of us as individuals. We parlementarians, then, knowing that we will eventually be presenting a formal request to the Member States, will feel a political obligation to exert pressure on our parties and national parliaments to win their support for our proposal.

I am sure that in this Parliament there is a large majority in favour of the institutional strengthening of the Community, a majority which cuts across all national and political groups and which must find self-awareness through this effort. However, there are also those who oppose it. These Members as well must and shall have the opportunity to express their views through our procedure. For the first time the debate on Europe will no longer be restricted to a small minority; it will become instead a central theme of European political life. Our peoples will finally be able to decide, through methods of democratic participation and not through the initiative or obstructionism of one government or another, whether or not they will proceed with European unification.

I ask you to give the calendar of our initiative your careful consideration. If we begin work in the next few months with the least possible delay, the final draft of the reform programme will be ready in a year and a half or two years. In the course of the last year of our parliamentary mandate we will present the project to the Member States for ratification; it is inconceivable, howerer, that it will be ratified within the same year. The second European elections will therefore be above all an appeal to the voters not only to elect the Members of the European Parliament but also to make known to the national parliaments whether the popular will is favourable or unfavourable to the ratification of the treaty submitted to them by our Assembly. This, ladies and gentlemen, in its true dimension, is the democratic battle for the construction of Europe in which our resolution invites your participation.

Several amendments have been presented. Amendment number 3 by Mr Israel and Amendment number 10 by Mr Price are unacceptable, because they alter the very aim of the resolution. Mr Israel would postpone everything until after the next elections, and Mr Price replaces a reform to be ratified with a suggestion to be given to the Member States regarding their short or long-term policy. Except for these two amendments - and some others which will be included in broader ones or withdrawn - the changes proposed appear to me to be acceptable: in particular I favour the amendment proposed by the Christian Democratic Group and the minor amendments proposed by the Socialist Group.

When you vote on the resolution and the amendments, I beg you to remember that a project like this one demands the participation of all the great political families of our countries, and that each

one must contribute its legitimate claims to the final agreement. Let us not, however, lose sight of our goal, the final synthesis to emerge from the present initial stage, where we must adopt a

procedure which excludes no one and at the same time permits vigorous is proportion, action. I appeal to you, therefore, to be wise and to have a sense of proportion, for only in this way can we be