The expansion of the powers of the European Union in the 1990s, the admission of new members from CEE, the change in the political weight of Europe in the world required, in turn, reforms of the internal structure of the EU and a clearer delineation of its competence with member states.
Traditionally, the issue of the revision of the Treaties took place within the framework of the mechanism of Intergovernmental Conferences, which took place during the development of the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties.
However, this form of preparation provided for greater participation for the governments of member states and to a lesser extent took into account the positions of representatives of the European Commission, deputies of the European Parliament, deputies of national parliaments, as well as representatives of other EU institutions and numerous European non-governmental organizations (NGOs). To remedy the situation and develop new proposals for the fundamental EU treaties, a three-stage preparation scheme was provided:
- «nationwide discussion», called «Dialogues on the future of Europe» during 2001-2002;
- Meetings of the European Convention (2002-2003);
- Convening of the next Intergovernmental Conference of the EU Member States (2003-2004).
The European Convention began its work in early 2002. The former President of France, Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, was elected Chairman. This structure includes representatives of European institutions, governments, national parliaments of the current and future member states — a total of 105 people.
Its work will continue until mid-2003. Proposals will be submitted to the Intergovernmental Conference and considered by the European Council when adopting amendments or accepting a new version of the Treaty.
Among the concrete results of the Convention, the following are expected: the proposal of a new name for the European integration project (European Community, European Union, United Europe, United States of Europe); the final version of the European constitution (consisting of one or more documents — for example, the Declaration of Rights and Freedoms, as well as documents defining the institutional structure of the EU and the extent of their competence); changes in the institutional structure of the European Union.
Also considered is the option of a new delineation of competence between the EU and the Member States and a rethinking of certain areas of EU activity (economic, agricultural, foreign and other policies).
Despite the federalist concept of the Convention, the main ideas expressed as a result of its work are more inclined towards the development of an intergovernmental approach, which means maintaining the powers of the governments of member states and the EU as a “union of sovereign states”.
This trend is due to the challenges facing the EU to accept new members from among the states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the need to increase the global competitiveness of the European economy, which requires the establishment of minimal interdependence among member states, again pushing back plans for building a federalist Europe for the future.