Monday, 23 June 2008

EU democracy and US Bill of Rights

James Madison penned the Bill of Rights, approved by the First United States Congress in 1791. When proposed, the first ten amendments (additions) to the US Constitution aimed to secure the ratification of the Constitution, still a bone of contention between Federalists and anti-Federalists.

The birth and life of the US Constitution is a recommended reading subject for anyone interested in a Europe able to protect its citizens in a changing world.

A glimpse at the ‘United States Bill of Rights’ development is offered by the Wikipedia article:


My present fascination with the subject stems from another ratification process, the one concerning the EU Treaty of Lisbon.

Built on the sand of unanimous ratification, I had long ago labelled the passage of the Lisbon Treaty (and future treaties on the same premises) a ‘mission impossible’. Today we know for sure that the number of ratifications will fall short of 27. What we don’t know is, by how much.

It would be surprising if the Irish changed their minds within six months or a year, if asked the same question again.


Despite the unanimous agreement between member states’ governments and the crushing voting records of most ratifying national parliaments, something is rotten in the state of the union, despite the legally binding ratifications.

Popular opinion is headed in a negative direction, fluctuating between cynicism and outright hostility. Pro-European intellectuals, free to speak their mind, are disillusioned to the core.

Hard of hearing, the European Council has only procrastinated and indicated a re-run in Ireland.

This is deliberately avoiding the root causes.

Even if the substance of the Lisbon Treaty could be salvaged, by most member states, the holes below the water-line put the whole European project at risk.

The European ‘Bill of Rights’ is radical democratic reform to re-establish the necessary ties between the governing and the governed.

There is time enough to devise the essentials of democratic EU reform and to make the European elections 2009 a turning-point in setting the course for the European Union.

Where is Europe’s James Madison?

Ralf Grahn