[27/03/2006] The “dead” EU Constitution rises to haunt again …

BERTIE AHERN ON THE EU CONSTITUTION

"Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said Ireland would now probably not hold a
referendum on the constitution until after the French election next year.
Mr Ahern said he thought there would be an EU constitution in the future,
although it may not be called a constitution. He also warned against
attempts by the 'cherry-picking brigade' to take bits out of the current
text to create a new treaty."

- "Irish Times" report by Jamie Smyth, Brussels, Saturday 25 March,
following last Friday's EU summit meeting

______________

EU LEADERS IN TALKS TO BRING BACK EU CONSTITUTION: 18 MEMBER STATES NOW
FAVOUR NEW RATIFICATION ATTEMPT  (Open Europe Bulletin, 9 March 2006)

This week the German press reported that Paris and Berlin are engaged in
confidential talks aimed at re-submitting the core of the EU Constitution
to French and Dutch voters, who rejected the Constitution last year.
French and German leaders had previously been in disagreement about the
best way to go about bringing back the EU Constitution.

It is believed the plans involve reducing the Constitution to its first two
parts - Part One, which sets out the EU's competences, and Part Two, the
Charter of Fundamental Rights.

German news weekly Der Spiegel reported that in order to be seen to address
some of the concerns which led to the No votes, a short political
declaration would also be added on to the Constitution, setting out the
EU's commitment to social protection.  The new slimmed-down document would
then be put to a fresh poll in both France and the Netherlands, while the
third (and main) part, which details EU policies, would be ratified in the
national parliaments of these countries.

In recent weeks more EU Heads of Government have added their names to calls
for the return of the Constitution.  Analysis by Open Europe suggests that
18 of the 25 member states are now backing the adoption of the EU
Constitution in its original form.  Poland and the Czech Republic are also
backing a new treaty, though not the Constitution in its original form.
Only the Netherlands (where nearly two thirds of voters said No) has said
that the Constitution is "dead".  But even the Netherlands has suggested
that it could be open to "something new".

The consensus in Brussels is that the debate about the EU Constitution will
"go live" again in Spring 2007 - due to the combination of the German
Presidency of the EU and the result of the French elections.

Summary of the attitudes of EU Member States towards the EU Constitution:

Dead - Netherlands (but Foreign Minister agrees "something new" needs to
happen)

Not the Constitution but a different new treaty - Poland and Czech Republic

Unsure - UK, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden

EU Constitution in some form - France, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Estonia,

Austria, Slovenia, Latvia,  Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Cyprus,
Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Malta -  have ratified  the Constitution
already

Where they stand:

Amongst others, Finland and Portugal appear to be backing the Franco-German
plan, calling for an EU Constitution based on the original with only
"marginal changes." (Le Figaro, 7 March)  Finland is expected to ratify the
Constitution during its presidency of the EU in the second half of this
year, and Portugal has said it will ratify a new version of the text as
soon as it is agreed.

At a meeting in February the Presidents of Hungary, Italy and Latvia also
expressed support for resuscitating the Constitution, and Slovenia, which
will hold the EU Presidency in the first half of 2008, has announced that
"the EU Constitution is very much alive" - thus revealing that every EU
Presidency that will take place between now and 2009 is committed to
bringing back the EU Constitution.

Of the other countries which have not yet voted on the Constitution,
Denmark, Ireland and Sweden have not revealed their plans, but Estonia is
quietly pursuing the ratification process.

President Lech Kaczynski of Poland has said that the Constitution "has
practically no chance of being ratified in Poland, neither by referendum
nor by parliamentary vote", (Le Figaro, 24 February) but, along with Czech
President Vaclav Klaus, he has called for a "new treaty" to be drafted.

Only the Dutch government has officially pronounced the EU Constitution
"dead," Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said "we have discussed the
Constitution, which for the Netherlands is dead." (Telegraph, 12 January)
However, even the Dutch have left themselves some wriggle-room; in a
subsequent interview with Die Presse, Bot agreed that "something new"
needed to happen. (20 January 2006)

For its part, the UK has so far refused to say whether it believes the EU
Constitution is dead. Tony Blair has said the Constitution "will have to be
revisited" (PA, 20 February).

<http://mailshot.moodia.com/sent/Redirect.aspx?mid=403&rid=125628&sid=83
8693&link=http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/singlemarket.pdf>

_____________________

28 February 2006

GISCARD D'ESTAING; FRANCE WILL VOTE YES IN THE END

At a lecture at the London School of Economics last week former French
President and chief drafter of the EU Constitution Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
argued unequivocally that "The rejection of the Constitution was a mistake
which will have to be corrected."  He said, "The Constitution will have to
be given its second chance", and joked, "Everyone makes mistakes." He said
the French people voted No out of an "error of judgement" and "ignorance",
and insisted that "In the end, the text will be adopted."

Referring to the second referendums on Europe that have taken place in the
past in Ireland and Denmark, Giscard said, "if the Irish and the Danes can
vote Yes in the end, so the French can do it too." He said arrogantly, "It
was a mistake to use the referendum process, but when you make a mistake
you can correct it."

Plans to resurrect the rejected EU Constitution - whether in whole or in
bits - are now well and truly under way.  With only a handful of countries
unsure about bringing the Constitution back, and determined EU leaders
negotiating to compromise on the way forward, it is only a matter of time
before the same text in a different format will be on the agenda of the
European Council. In a recent poll of politicians, business leaders, NGOs
and officials in Europe 70 percent said they believed bringing back bits of
the Constitution would not be "undemocratic".  At the beginning of its EU
presidency Austria said "We must respect the French and the Dutch No votes
but also the decision of those who have ratified the treaty."  Clearly this
sentiment has been forgotten.

See
<http://mailshot.moodia.com/sent/Redirect.aspx?mid=403&rid=125628&sid=83
8693&link=http://register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/05/st15/st15576.en05.p
df>  for a summary of the efforts now under way in each EU Member State to
sell the Constitution to voters.

__________________

THE DEAD EU CONSTITUTION RISES TO HAUNT AGAIN

Briefing  by Jens-Peter Bonde MEP, June Movement Denmark; Joint Chair,
Independence and Democracy Group, European Parliament ... Friday 10 March
2006

The Finnish Parliament will ratify the "dead" EU Constitution before
Finland takes over the EU presidency on 1 July this year. This became
obvious this week in  discussions between a delegation from the European
Parliament's Constitutional Committee which included me and the Finnish
Parliament.

The President of the Finnish Parliament, former Prime Minister Paavo
Lipponen, told us that he is in favour of an early ratification of the EU
Constitution. The Finnish Government have sent a White Book on the
Constitution to the Finish Parliament. They will now start deliberations on
the text.

The Finnish Prime Minister, Vanhanen, is not keen on being involved in a
conflict before his European presidency. He is not the person to push the
matter. However, he is not the person to block the process either. In the
Convention I worked with him for a referendum on the Constitution. He must
have forgotten that when he became Prime Minister, thus illustrating the
old proverb: "It's the job that decides, not the person."

The majority in the Finnish Parliament and all parties except a small
minority of individuals want the EU Constitution now. We only heard one
single voice of opposition during our visit: Timo Soini of the True Finns
party. Everyone else was pleased with the Constitution, which I doubt most
of them have even read.

At the same time support for the European Union in Finland has reached its
lowest level ever in opinion polls. The appeasement policy of the Finnish
elite towards Brussels was striking. I understand Finnish security
interests in EU membership, but why sign a Constitution that will reduce
Finnish democracy in the very year when they celebrate 100 years of Finnish
democracy?

The ratification and the celebration may indeed coincide on the same days
in June. What a paradox! The Finnish Constitution gives all the power to
the Finnish voters. In the proposed EU Constitution you can only indirectly
find the normal democratic principles.

Those people we vote for at national level cannot make proposals in the EU.
All EU proposals are made by people that we cannot elect or select.

In Finland and all other democracies the elected members of parliament
decide the laws. You can have a new majority at the next elections and then
change the law by means of new legislation.  This fundamental democratic
principle does not exist in the European cooperation or in the proposed EU
Constitution.

In the EU 85% of all laws are effectively decided by civil servants behind
closed doors, and the remaining 15% by ministers and civil servants
together. As a derogation from that, members of the European Parliament can
influence EU law-making by proposing amendments to  EU laws coming from the
EU Council and Commission when they are supported by an absolute majority
of the Parliament's members, which require agreement between left and right.

In the Finnish Parliament all laws can be changed, amended and decided by a
simple majority in the parliament. Finnish voters always have the last word.

We now need to re-start the debate on the content of the proposed EU
Constitution before it will be ratified in more countries. Since the French
and Dutch voters killed the Constitution, it has been ratified in
Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia and Belgium. Estonia and Finland are on
their way.

After the French presidential elections in May next year the German
Chancellor and the new French President may try to have a re-run in France
of the very misleading and short Parts I and II  of the Constitution and
then have the  detailed Parts III and IV ratified by the French National
Asssmbly

In the European Parliament my "Group for Independence and Democracy" is
buying a bus to travel throughout Europe to meet the voters and debate the
proposed EU Constitution and our alternatives with them. I hope that we
shall have this bus ready for the European summit in Brussels on March 23th

Here is our different material on the Constitution (see link below)
http://www.euabc.com/

___________________

SO, YOU THOUGHT THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION WAS DEAD, DID YOU?

Daniel Hannan MEP, Daily Telegraph, London, 20 March 2006

Two years from now, the European constitution will be in force - certainly
de facto and probably de jure, too.  Never mind that 15 million Frenchmen
and five million Hollanders voted against it.  The Eurocrats have worked
out a deft way of getting around them.  Here's how they will do it.

First, they will shove through as many of the constitution's contents as
they can under the existing legal framework - a process they already begun
even before the referendums.  Around 85 per cent of the text can, with some
creative interpretation, be implemented this way.  True, there are one or
two clauses that will require a formal treaty amendment: a European
president to replace the system whereby the member nations take it in turns
to chair EU meetings; a new voting system; legal personality for the Union.

These outstanding items will be formalized at a miniature
inter-governmental conference, probably in 2007.  There will be no need to
debate them again: all 25 governments accepted them in principle when they
signed the constitution 17 months ago.  We shall then be told that these
are detailed and technical changes, far too abstruse to be worth pestering
the voters with.  The EU will thus have equipped itself with 100 per cent
of the constitution.  Clever, no?

Don't take my word for it: listen to what the EU's own leaders are saying.
Here is Wolfgang Schüssel, Chancellor of Austria and the EU's current
president: "The constitution is not dead."  Here is Angela Merkel, leader
of Europe's most powerful and populous state: "Europe needs the
constitution Š we are willing to make whatever contribution is necessary to
bring the constitution into force."  Here is Dominique de Villepin, who, in
true European style, has risen to prime ministership of France without ever
having run for elected office: "France did not say No to Europe."  And, on
Tuesday, our own Europe minister, Douglas Alexander, repeatedly refused to
rule out pushing ahead with the bulk of the text without a referendum.

For the purest statement of the Eurocrats' contempt for the voters,
however, we must turn to the constitution's author, Valery Giscarde
d'Estaing.  Here is a man who, with his exquisite suits and de haut en bas
manner, might be said to personify the EU: so  extraordinarily
distinguished, as Mallarmé remarked in a different context, that when you
bid him bonjour, he makes you feel as though you'd said merde.  "Let's be
clear about this," pronounced Giscard a couple of weeks ago.  "The
rejection of the constitution was a mistake that will have to be
corrected."  He went on to remind his audience that the Danish and Irish
electorates had once been presumptuous enough to vote against a European
treaty, but that no one had paid them the slightest attention.

The same thing is happening today.  Since the French and Dutch "No" votes,
three countries have approved the text and three more - Finland, Estonia
and Belgium - look set to follow in the coming weeks, which would bring to
16 the number of states to have ratified.  At the same time, the European
Commission has launched a massive exercise to sell the constitution to the
doltish national electorates.  Their scheme goes under the splendidly James
Bondish title of "Plan D". I forgot what the D stands for: deceit, I think,
or possibly distain.  Anyway, squillions of euros are being spent on
explaining to us that we have misunderstood our true interests.

While all this is going on, the EU is proceeding as if the constitution
were already in force.  Most of the institutions and policies that it would
have authorised are being enacted anyway: the External Borders Agency, the
European Public Prosecutor, the External Action Service, the Charter of
Fundamental Rights, the European Defence Agency, the European Space
Programme.  The text is not, as the cliché of the moment has it, being
"smuggled in through the back door"; it is swaggering brazenly through the
front.

Whenever one of these initiatives comes before us on the constitutional
affairs committee, I ask my federalist colleagues: "Where in the existing
treaties does it say you can do this?"  "Where does it say we can't?" they
reply.  Pressed for a proper answer, they point to a flimsy cat's-cradle of
summit communiqués, council resolutions and commission press releases.

To be fair, this is how the European project has always advanced.  First,
Brussels extends its jurisdiction into a field of policy and then, often
years later, it gets around to regularizing that extension in a new treaty.
The voters are thus presented with a fait accompli, the theory being that
they will be likelier to shrug their shoulders and accept it than they
would have been to give their consent in advance.

This, indeed, is how the EU was designed.  Its founding fathers understood
from the first that their audacious plan to merge the ancient nations of
Europe into a single polity would never succeed if each successive transfer
of power had been referred back to the voters for approval.  So they
cunningly devised a structure where supreme power was in the hands of
appointed functionaries, immune to public opinion. Indeed, the EU's
structure is not so much undemocratic as anti-democratic in that many
commissioners, a la Patten and Kinnock, have been explicitly rejected by
the voters.

In swatting aside two referendum results, the EU is being true to its
foundational principles.  Born out of a reaction against the Second World
War, and the plebiscitary democracy that had preceded it, the EU is based
on the notion that "populism" (or "democracy", as you and I call it) is a
dangerous thing.  Faced with a result that they dislike, the
Euro-apparatchiks' first instinct is to ask, with Brecht: "Wouldn't it be
easier to dissolve the people and elect another in their place?"

To complain that the EU is undemocratic is like attacking a cow for being
bovine, or a butterfly for being flighty.  In disregarding public opinion,
the EU is doing what it has been programmed to do.  It is fulfilling its
prime directive.

Sadly, we British are also exhibiting one of our worst national
characteristics, namely our tendency to ignore what is happening on the
Continent until too late.  With a few exceptions - and here I doff my cap
to the pressure group Open Europe, which is waging a lonely campaign to
alert people to the danger - we are carrying on as though the French
electorate had killed off the constitution, and so spared us from having to
think about the European issue at all.

Once again, we are fantasizing about the kind of EU we might ideally like
to have, rather that dealing with the one that is in fact taking shape on
our doorstep.  Will we never learn?

Freagra

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