Thursday, 14 February 2008

EU: TFEU Preamble

Why have the governments and parliaments of first six, now 27, nation states fallen for the siren call of ‘ever closer union’?

The first effort to present the general causes of and the historic reasons for European integration are found in the Preamble to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Even in its latest version the Preamble is almost frozen in time.

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After the horizontal amendments, the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) advanced to specific amendments (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/44):

B. Specific amendments

Preamble

10) In the second recital, the word ‘countries’ shall be replaced by ‘States’ and in the last recital, the words ‘HAVE DECIDED to create a EUROPEAN COMMUNITY and to this end have designated’ shall be replaced by ‘and to this end HAVE DESIGNATED’.

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The Preamble to the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), to become the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), is almost a museum exhibit of European integration (in the latest consolidated version of the TEC, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/43).

The piety shown to the Preamble since the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) is illustrated by the fact that only the last substantial recital on knowledge and education has been added during 50 years.

The European Community has since enlarged to 27 members, but the six founding member states are still at the beginning of the Preamble.

The European Community dissolves into the European Union, but true to tradition, the IGC 2007 makes only the slightest editorial adaptations to the text.

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After the necessary adaptations, the consolidated version of Preamble of the TFEU should begin like this in the Treaty of Lisbon version:

HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC, HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE GRAND DUCHESS OF LUXEMBOURG, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS,

DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,

RESOLVED to ensure the economic and social progress of their States by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe,

AFFIRMING as the essential objective of their efforts the constant improvements of the living and working conditions of their peoples,

RECOGNISING that the removal of existing obstacles calls for concerted action in order to guarantee steady expansion, balanced trade and fair competition,

ANXIOUS to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions,

DESIRING to contribute, by means of a common commercial policy, to the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade,

INTENDING to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries and desiring to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

RESOLVED by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts,

DETERMINED to promote the development of the highest possible level of knowledge for their peoples through a wide access to education and through its continuous updating,

and to this end HAVE DESIGNATED as their Plenipotentiaries:

(List of plenipotentiaries not reproduced)

WHO, having exchanged their full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed as follows.

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One reflection is that the objectives of European integration are almost timeless, starting with ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’, real solidarity believed to flow naturally from ever closer cooperation between their countries.

Another thought is that a museum can freeze life at a certain point in time, but in the street outside life continues to adapt and change. Without remembering the establishment of the European Union and its development through the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties, the contributions by the Convention and the Constitutional Treaty, and now the Lisbon Treaty, the picture of the ultimate goals would be incomplete.

Experiment a little: Read one recital, then stop to think if you can subscribe to that or not. Then take on the next one. In the end, count how many ‘yes’ and how many ‘no’ answers you have.

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Since the TFEU Preamble barely changes, it hardly gets a mention in the legislative documents I have looked at, but it would be a mistake to bypass the Preamble as if it lacked importance.

According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 31(2) the text of a treaty includes its preamble and annexes for the purpose of the interpretation.


Ralf Grahn