The Spinelli Report was the result of many years of work and reflection, a project developed on the basis of the Manifesto di Ventotene written by Altiero Spinelli with Ernesto Rossi in 1941. Spinelli chose to advocate a United States of Europe, and the first elected Parliament offered him the chance to work on some of the ideas born during his confinement on the island of Ventotene. All his political action as a member of the European Parliament can be defined as innovative and determined, aimed at achieving an important role for the European Parliament among the institutions of European Union, as well as an important role for the European Union itself as an entity.
Altiero Spinelli’s intervention during the plenary session September 1983, debate on the report on the substance of the preliminary draft Treaty establishing the European Union (A1-0575/83):
The Crocodile Club
On 25 June 1980, Altiero Spinelli addressed a letter to his colleagues in the European Parliament, an encouragement to take the decision to step forward. In his letter, he wrote “if there are colleagues who, like me, are convinced that the reform of the communitarian institutions is too serious to be left in the hands of statesmen and diplomats, I would appreciate if they replied to this letter and participated in meetings where we will be studying the best ways to involve the Parliament in this kind of action“.
Not long afterwards, in July 1980 in the Strasbourg restaurant “Au Crocodile”, the basis for what was to become known as the Crocodile Club was set out: that is a group of Parliamentarians wanting to reform the European institutions.
The Club’s first action was a motion for a resolution (B1-0889/80) on the setting up of an ad hoc committee, presented in the July 1981 plenary session. During the debate on 7 July 1981, Altiero Spinelli emphasised that “each one of us has had the opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by the European structures as they are today: their limits and the profound and growing contradiction between what the Community should be and what it is“. It was also a breakthrough as “we must be aware that we are starting a fresh new chapter in the life of our Assembly and that we are initiating an audacious political action“.
The resolution was adopted on 9 July 1981 with 164 votes in favour, 24 against and 2 abstentions.
The Committee on Institutional Affairs
The resolution stated that a permanent committee on institutional problems would be created from the start of the second half of the term. The committee was created with the purpose of revising the Treaties and elaborating a new constitutional plan for the Community. The first meeting was held on 27 January 1982. Altiero Spinelli was named coordinating rapporteur. The Committee also decided that the reform should focus on six topics: economic, policy for society, international relations, finances, law and institutions. For each section, a rapporteur (from different political groups) was appointed to assist the coordinating rapporteur.
After several hearings with representatives of the economic and social authorities and representatives of the Community institutions, as well as a period of reflection, the report was submitted in July 1982 – Report on the European Parliament’s position concerning the reform of the Treaties and the achievement of the European Union (A1-0305/82).
As Altiero Spinelli stated in plenary on 5 July 1982, the report came out of a time of deep reflection and analysis, “we have rewritten the text three times on the basis of long general discussions, and a fourth time on the basis of some 90 amendments presented by Members from each part of the political spectrum of this Assembly, amendments which have nearly all become part of the definitive text“. His belief was that a positive vote on this resolution “will signal the beginning of a democratic political battle for the Europe of the 1980s, for a Europe made by Europeans for Europeans“.
It was indeed a positive outcome. On 6 July 1982, the Committee’s report received 258 votes in favour, 37 against and 21 abstentions, “une majorité écrasante/an overwhelming majority”, as the President of the Committee stated in its meeting of 29 September 1982.
In this context, in September 1983, after almost a year of reflection, hearings and seminars in the European Parliament, and also with experts from all Member States, the Assembly discussed the motion for a resolution on the Substance of the preliminary draft Treaty establishing the European Union (A1-0575/83). It was “an entire year reading and rereading every paragraph of every section, quite often reworking them completely, as to reflect the broadest possible consensus in each case“, (Altiero Spinelli, debate of 13 September 1983). The motion was adopted on 14 September with 201 votes for, 37 against and 72 abstentions, and its purpose was a redefinition of the institutions, ”so that each is able to function effectively in the framework provided by the Union and none is able to steal a march on the others and obstruct all action“.
The Draft Treaty
Having won another battle, the road was finally clear for the achievement of one of the most important goals of the elected Parliament. From September to December, the Committee managed to accomplish its task and sent a motion for a resolution on the Preliminary draft Treaty establishing the European Union (A1-1200/83) to the Assembly. As marked in Altiero Spinelli statement of 14 February 1984, this motion was an innovation as “our text makes the Commission into a genuine political executive and preserves a legislative and budgetary role for the Council of the Union. It recognises that there are fields in which problems should be dealt with by the European Council by the method of cooperation. But it prohibits the intergovernmental method from encroaching on the sphere of common action and, at the same time, leaves a way open for certain matters to be transferred from the sphere of cooperation to that of common action“.
At the same time, the resolution established the concept of the “European Union”, a union provided with legal personality and one that introduced the concept of Union citizenship, the principle of subsidiarity, the primacy of European law, a procedure for the revision of the Treaties, as well as a new method for the entry into force of the Treaties (Art. 82: ratification “by a majority of the Member States of the Communities whose population represents two-thirds of the total population of the Communities”).
On 14 February 1984, the “Draft Treaty” was approved by a majority of 237 votes in favour, 31 against and 43 abstentions.
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