Giscard: Europe needs a people’s congress

By Daniela Vincenti-Mitchener

EU leaders are too focused on the short term of upcoming elections and lack a strategic vision to give new impetus to European integration and better connect with citizens, said Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Speaking on the margin of a conference on how to revitalise the European dream organised by French business school INSEAD, the former French president and chairman of the European Convention noted that European leaders are not following up on some of the goals enshrined in the EU Treaties.

What is needed is a real Congress of the People, in which European and national parliamentarians would come together to debate the state of the Union and address major challenges, said the French statesman.

It is high time to reconsider the lack of a European public space and bring the EU closer to its citizens, added Giscard, referring to growing fatigue with the European Union.

The Frenchman urged the president of the European Council to make this a priority after the renewal of his mandate in 2012.

"We must give people back their European dimension and reconsider the project of creating the Congress of the Peoples of Europe," he said, adding that other large and populous countries in the world, like China and the United States, convene such congresses every year.

Giscard believes such a congress could not only address pressing challenges, but also choose the next leaders of the European Union — the new founders of European integration.

To make the Union more efficient, the former French president said the European Commission should be restructured and have no more than 13 members — 27 is too many and continuing to add one commissioner for every new member states is unsustainable, he insisted.

"We need a rotation system," he said.

The EU executive should also be made up of true Europeans chosen for their competence in the area they have to cover, rather than for political reasons.

Responding to a question on future enlargement, Giscard said the Union was already big enough and before considering new entries, leaders should pave the way for a fit political structure.

"We must have first more regular meetings of the European Council — once a month for example. But above all European leaders should hold high the European interest rather than the interest of their country," he added.