Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Constitution Plus

Among all the talk about scaling down the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union, it is refreshing to go back to “Constitution Plus, renegotiating the treaty”, written by the Liberal MEP Andrew Duff and published by the Trans-European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) in February 2007.

Duff sees two fundamentally different approaches to solving the problem of Europe’s stalled constitution.

One option is to chop up the original 2004 text in order to devise a ‘mini treaty’ – with or without a promise of later, more radical reform.

The other option is to continue the good but uncompleted work of the original Convention. Duff favours this approach, and he proposes both presentational and substantive adjustments to the 2004 text.

In Duff’s view, an improved treaty and better marketing could lead to eventual success.

A settlement is needed if Europe is to acquire desirable internal cohesion and external strength. Globalisation does not wait for Europe to sort out its domestic difficulties.

Duff singles out five topics as unfinished business, which needs to be concluded:

· economic governance
· the social model
· climate security
· enlargement
· the financial system.

Easing future revision: The threat of the ‘liberum veto’ will continue to paralyse the constitutional evolution of the Union unless the up-coming inter-governmental conference is bold enough to introduce a greater element of flexibility.

In Duff’s opinion the Charter of Fundamental Rights would gain visibility and greater detachment from the functional clauses of the treaty by being published separately as an Annex, without affecting its legal standing. He proposes a more flexible revision procedure for the Charter.

Since Part III of the Constitutional Treaty, more or less, takes over the policies of the present EC Treaty, it needs to be up-dated and rationalised. Duff proposes:

up-dating economic governance,
strengthening the autonomy of the euro area,
modernising labour and social welfare policies,
greening the constitution,
retouching the objectives of the common agricultural policy,
adding a separate article for the common fisheries policy,
revamping energy policy,
introducing the Copenhagen criteria for membership,
creating an associate membership,
fleshing out neighbourhood policy and
reforming the financial system.

Both the Convention and the following inter-governmental conference spent most of their energy on institutional questions. Some progress was made, but Europe is still hemmed in by the ‘liberum veto’ at different stages. Duff’s proposals are modest, but would bring some flexibility.

Most of the policies of the European Community received scant attention, and a general up-dating exercise would be welcome.

An example: Obesity is a serious health-problem in Europe in 2007, but the present treaty and the proposed constitution read as if famine would still be the order of the day.

Duff gives directions for some changes which could be addressed by the coming inter-governmental conference.

Are our leaders going to catch the ball or to drop it? Your opinions are welcome.

Ralf Grahn