Spain wants European Union leaders to agree next month on an overhaul of the way the EU takes decisions that could have far-reaching consequences for how the 15 member states organise government. The proposals are still secret, but diplomats said they aim to open ministerial voting on legislation to the public, improve the preparation and limit the focus of EU summits, and create a better supervisory body to coordinate European affairs.One major consequence could be to put the management of EU business more directly under heads of state and government, edging aside foreign ministries that have dominated EU policy since the founding 1957 Treaty of Rome. “The fact is that EU affairs are no longer foreign policy, but sensitive domestic policy for member governments. Leaders want to take control themselves,” a senior EU diplomat said. But it could cause problems in countries such as Germany with coalition governments where the foreign minister is not usually from the same political party as the chancellor. Under the proposals, ministers would have to explain and cast their votes in public, instead of behind closed doors, when adopting legislation on which they share decision-making power with the European Parliament. “That should make it harder for European politicians to claim credit only for popular decisions and blame Brussels for the unpopular ones,” another diplomat said. Diagnosing what is wrong with EU decision-making is easier than agreeing on the remedy, however. There is broader consensus on the need to limit EU summits, known as the European Council, which have become sprawling media circuses with wordy declarations and a growing cast of special guests, to a much tighter, better-prepared agenda. Spain proposes that EU leaders should issue only brief “decisions” instead of rambling “conclusions” on a vast range of EU and world topics that can run to more than 20 pages, and should no longer micro-manage minor decisions. “If Europe's founding fathers had seen EU leaders haggling like fishwives over the siting of new EU agencies last December, they would have turned in their graves,” one diplomat said. The Spanish plan stresses practical improvements that can be implemented from January 1, 2003, without changing the EU's founding treaties, a bigger task currently being debated by a constitutional Convention on the Future of Europe. But diplomats said Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar also wanted to use the June 20-21 EU summit in Seville to give political momentum to bolder proposals from the big member states for electing a president of the European Council for up to five years, instead of the current six-month rotating presidency. Several EU governments want to give the European Council legislative powers, but that too would require a treaty change.

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