Two steps forward, one step back

Article published on June 23, 2003
community published
Article published on June 23, 2003

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

The European constitution: a tentative and half-hearted product of compromise. Farewell simplicity, foreign policy and sheer daring!

When work started on the European convention, Valéry Giscard dEstaing clearly stated his aims: the European constitution should be accessible to every high school pupil in Europe; it should contribute to the emergence of a common identity, especially in the realm of foreign policy. Almost 15 months have passed. The plenary sessions of the convention lasted for more than 40 days. What have we got to show for it?

The 13th June 2003 will perhaps be remembered as the birth date of the European constitution. Despite a few sticky patches, the draft constitution is ready and the members of the convention have finally reached agreement. But at what price?

First to go was the attempt at clarity. Will the average European high school pupil be able to understand why some parts of the constitution will be applicable in 2004 and others from 2009 only? I myself struggle to understand the reasoning behind this and deplore the unhelpful attitude of some governments whose representatives at the convention sometimes seemed to think that they held a monopoly over the political representation of the European citizenry.

If it was just a question of clarity, some sort of solution could be found. But there are more serious problems: the implementation of some parts of the convention could be pushed back from 2009 to 2012! In this case, the European Union would have to exist for 8 years with an enlarged Commission (composed of 25 commissioners, i.e. one per Member State) and a system of vote weighting based on the much-criticised Treaty of Nice. In the context of an enlarged Union, this poses a real threat to the dynamism of the EU.

Little steps

Another victim has been the use of qualified majority voting in the field of foreign policy. To date, the European Union has developed no common foreign policy. There is no denying this fact. The war in Iraq brought it home to the persistent doubters. It also made clear the desirability of a common foreign policy, lest it be forgotten. European diplomacy has yet to be constructed and to maintain the principle of unanimity for decision making in foreign affairs is only to delay the emergence of said common foreign policy.

It is because I believe that the EU deserves a more ambitious, consistent and viable draft that I am sceptical about the various compromises that are already eating away at the fabric of our future European constitution.