The FINANCIAL -- BRUSSELS -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged EU member states to abandon the requirement of unanimity for decisions on some foreign policy matters, including human rights issues, and play a greater role on the world stage.
Juncker made the call on September 12 in his State of the EU speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, saying that EU states should rein in divisions over budgets, immigration, and other issues.
Juncker cited as an example the EU's failure to condemn human rights abuses by China at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, referring to an incident in June when Greece stopped Brussels from voicing concern about Beijing’s crackdown on journalists and dissidents.
Although not mentioned during his speech, the written text of his comments published by the commission afterward also stated that “it is not right that one member state was able to hold the renewal of our arms embargo on Belarus to ransom, or that sanctions on Venezuela were delayed for months when unanimity could not be reached.”
EU foreign policy is one of the areas where decisions are taken by unanimity, but the commission has highlighted three areas where a so-called qualified majority vote (QMV) should be introduced: to respond collectively to attacks on human rights, to apply effective sanctions, and to launch and manage civilian security and defense missions.
QMV means that a decision is passed if 55 percent of the member states, representing at least 65 percent of the EU population, agree.
The commission hopes that EU leaders will agree to the change at an EU summit in the Romanian city of Sibiu on May 9, 2019, which takes place less than two months after Britain is expected to leave the EU and two weeks ahead of the European Parliamentary elections.