The European Union creates an organ aimed at reforming the body, which many Europeans feel needs more transparency and simplification.
Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing heads the EU reform committee.
At the European Council Summit in Laeken, Belgium in mid-December, the heads of state agreed on a so-called "Convention" to deal with the future of the 15-nation bloc. "It will be the task of that Convention to consider the key issues arising for the Union's future development and try to identify the various possible responses," the leaders said.
The agenda of the Convention, which begins work next March, will include the question of whether to curb the national veto and whether to have the president of the Commission elected directly by European voters. Most importantly, though, the committee needs to help the EU become "more democratic, more transparent and more efficient".
The organ’s chairman, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, is required to keep the Council informed of the Convention's proceedings. He is expected to give an oral progress report at each European Council meeting, so that member states have the chance to give their views at the same time.
After 12 to 15 months of analysis, the Convention will draw up a final document with various options or recommendations on the EU’s reform. But member states will have the final say on these matters when an inter-governmental conference is convened in 2004.
The European Council appointed former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene to serve as joint vice-presidents.
The Convention is also composed of one government representative and two national parliament members from each EU member state. In addition, 16 members of the European Parliament and two European Commission representatives are part of the organ.
Candidate countries seeking membership in the EU are fully involved in the Convention's proceedings. They are represented in the same way as the current member states and are able to take part in the proceedings. But they cannot take any actions to prevent a consensus which may emerge among the member states.