The constitution: a long wait

Article published on July 5, 2006
Article published on July 5, 2006

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

On 1 July, as Austria’s presidency of the European Union ends and Finland’s begins, the constitution is still left in limbo

There is nothing new in the report the European Council published on the 15 June. You have to wait until page 17 of the document to even find a mention of the European Constitution. The European Council hasn’t drawn any conclusions during the so called year “period of reflection” beyond recognising the ratification process has continued in spite of the French and Dutch referenda, since a further five countries have ratified the Constitutional Treaty.

Using the EU’s typically cryptic language, the European Council has in fact extended this period of reflection until the first half of 2007, calling on the Finnish presidency to present a report which “after extensive consultations…explores possible future developments." Also, the conclusions show that “further work is needed before decisions on the future of the Constitutional Treaty can be taken.” Finally, the preliminary agenda of the Finnish presidency, points out that “the aim is to start preliminary work on exploring the options regarding the Constitutional Treaty.” Which is to say they have said nothing at all.

Speaking loudly saying nothing

All this possibly means that the European Council will retain the current text of the constitution (which Finland will prepare to ratify during its presidency); while at the same time recognising that it will have to develop “accompanying measures.” These are absolutely essential, even if no one is sure what “accompanying measures” actually means. As the President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, pointed out, France won’t vote again on the same text, neither before nor after their presidential elections. Furthermore, important sectors of European society, including parts of the left which support the idea of the constitution, have recognised the need to work towards a social model for Europe – the absence of which being the chief reason the French referendum failed. Thus, perhaps one such accompanying measure would be a protocol that sanctions the EU commitment to social harmony. This is strengthened by entrusting this task to the German Presidency, which will start in the spring. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown herself to be in favour of keeping the constitutional text and incorporating additions to the current text in order overcome French and Dutch reluctance.

Therefore, Finland’s presidency, a country with a clear socio-democratic tradition, could ease Germany’s task by including a measure to avoid competition between social systems within the Union in its final conclusions next December. A principle that could be reiterated in the political declaration planned to commemorate the 50 anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on March 25th 2007. Let’s hope our leaders are up to it.