Sunday, 3 June 2007

Cherry-picking

EUlawblogger wrote thoughtfully on the EU’s Constitutional Treaty in “Picking the cherries” on 1 May 2007. Bringing back parts of the Constitutional Treaty cannot be seen as ignoring the public will. The Constitutional Treaty contained some useful provisions to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the EU and to ensure more effective functioning of the political institutions, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of the Court of Justice, including the removal of unjustified restrictions on its jurisdiction over the area of ‘freedom, security and justice’. It also contained some useful provisions on human rights, although unfortunately the provisions, scope and effect of the EU’s Charter of Rights have been widely misunderstood.

Still, EUlawblogger wanted to focus on the provisions which would most reconnect the EU with its population, such as the provisions on subsidiarity and transparency, which should be strengthened, and avoiding as much as possible new powers or extensions of qualified majority voting regarding substantive EU powers. Extensions of QMV relating to the institutional functioning of the EU would not impose any further on national policies.

Roughly, EUlawblogger favoured provisions strengthening the Court of Justice and the European Parliament, but not a slimmer Commission, a President of the European Council or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Interestingly, EUlawblogger found that any reasonable compromise was threatened by the intransigence of pro-Constitution states, not the ones reneging on their signature. Is this stance unbiased?

Pragmatism, including inter-governmental wrangling behind closed doors, looked more enticing to him or her than the transparent work of the Convention.

Although EUlawblogger is no abolitionist, the approach is fairly minimalist, in my view, and one or a few revisionist governments are unduly allowed to outweigh a clear majority.

The Treaty of Nice should have been the last of its kind. The Convention was a clear improvement and the subsequent inter-governmental conference only a moderate failure. The real calamity was leaving the European Union hostage to national vetoes, when Europe needs coherence in a less secure world.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is broader in scope as well as more systematic and up-to-date than the ECHR. It does not confer new powers on the EU, but it can be seen as the most visible example of a Union which was going to place its citizens at the centre of its actions. Leaving the Charter out of the Treaty sends the wrong (or perhaps realist?) signal the population and it should give cause to wide-spread concern.

Ralf Grahn