[Marxism] The EU Constitution Referendum

Jack Cade jack.cade at btinternet.com
Mon May 23 06:48:29 MDT 2005

	The Financial Times, voice of and for realistic
businessmen, seems to have long believed that the proposed EU
Constitution is a dead duck. This is one of the latest features.

Jack Cade

There is life beyond a European constitution
By Charles Grant 
(The writer is director of the Centre for European Reform and the
author of What Happens if Britain Votes No? (www.cer.org.uk) 

Financial Times May 23 2005

A No vote in France's referendum on the European Union
constitutional treaty could open up a period of confusion,
uncertainty and recrimination. That would make it hard for the EU
to deal with difficult issues such as the negotiation of a new
budget settlement, further enlargement and the Lisbon agenda of
economic reform, not to mention foreign policy challenges, such
as relations with Iran and Russia. A No from the Netherlands,
which holds a referendum three days after France, could have
similar consequences.

If the French or the Dutch vote No, the European Council (EU
heads of government and the Commission president) should meet
immediately. Its message should be that a referendum defeat is
not a catastrophe, that methods will be found for improving the
way the EU institutions work, and that the Union will proceed
with business as usual. An upbeat tone would help to reassure the
business community that the EU and its rules will not unravel,
and the Union's neighbours that it will not become too

The council should discard the suggestion of Jean-Claude Juncker,
Luxembourg prime minister, that the other members should continue
with ratification. Mr Juncker apparently believes that if
everyone else adopts the treaty the French may change their mind
in a second referendum. But, unless the result was extremely
close, many EU governments would assume that a French No had
killed the treaty.

The council should respect the wishes of French (or Dutch) voters
by pronouncing the treaty dead. But it should also announce a
three-pronged strategy to keep the Union focused and
forward-looking. First, the EU would remain committed to current
priorities: agreeing on a budget settlement, starting membership
talks with Turkey and Croatia, developing closer ties with near
neighbours, pressing ahead with economic reform (including the
services directive) and concluding the Doha trade round.

Second, the governments would implement some of the treaty's
foreign policy provisions. The existing institutions are
ill-suited to servicing the EU's embryonic common foreign policy.
Fortunately, sections of the treaty can be put into effect under
the legal base of the existing treaties. The EU could set up the
"external action service", a kind of EU diplomatic corps. It
could create the post of EU foreign minister by merging the jobs
of high representative (currently Javier Solana) and external
relations commissioner - as long as Spain appointed Mr Solana as
its commissioner and he took the external relations portfolio. Mr
Solana could then chair foreign ministers' meetings instead of
the minister of the country holding the rotating presidency. But
most of the treaty cannot be implemented without ratification.

Third, the governments would announce a pause before returning to
the question of amending the existing EU treaties. After, say, a
year reflecting on the treaties' strengths and weaknesses, they
would gather for a "mini inter-governmental conference" that
would decide on just a handful of amendments. This would give the
governments a chance to save key provisions of the constitutional
treaty, such as the "double majority" voting rules (simpler and
fairer than the current rules), the creation of the post of EU
president or the cut in the number of commissioners. They should
avoid picking provisions that would add to the EU's powers, such
as the extension of majority voting into new areas.

Such amendments would form a new treaty of perhaps a couple of
pages. Most EU governments would wish to avoid further
referendums and would ratify this by parliamentary vote.
Eurosceptics would demand referendums, complaining that arrogant
politicians were again building the EU behind the backs of the
people. The governments should face down such demands, pointing
out that the constitutional treaty and the overwhelming majority
of its provisions had been abandoned. They should explain that
the new mini-treaty was about technical adjustments, to make the
EU work better, rather than transfers of new powers to the EU.

Mr Juncker and others committed to a much more integrated Europe
would like this strategy little more than the eurosceptics. They
would be loath to lose the constitutional treaty on which they
had worked so hard. They should perhaps seek solace in the
provisions of the existing treaties that allow groups of member
states to co-operate more closely in certain policy areas. But
they should accept that the EU as a whole cannot take major steps
towards a more united Europe unless it can convince electorates
to support them.

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