Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

“Europe is not ambitious enough”

Can’t really argue with that. This is the problem with this bloody constitution – there’s no vision behind it. There’s nothing to inspire interest, enthusiasm or loyalty – even among the faithful. For a project as ambtitious as the breaking down of barriers between the disparate, once war-ridden nations of an ancient continent, you’d think they’d have at least tried to have given it a shot or two of pizzazz.

The trouble with this “constitution” (even the eurosceptic Scotsman accepts that it’s really little more than “a 500-page pull-together of all previous EU Treaties”) is, as I’ve said elsewhere before, that it’s looking to sort out the present and the clutter of the past, not the future.

All good constitutions look to the future. They see what was wrong with the past and they try to make everything as perfect as possible.

So, in this constitution where’s the drive for democracy? Qualified Majority Voting is kind of more democratic, but something tells me that’s not what the critics meant. Yes, the elected European Parliament gains a say in far more areas, but where’s the push for transparency in the Commission? Where’s the insistence that national parliaments pay more attention to Brussels legislation?

Perhaps if Westminster was paying more attention they’d have spotted the working time directive a tad sooner, and have been able to do something. Perhaps if Westminster was paying more attention then Britain would cease to implement EU directives to the letter, sometimes causing problems, and find the more flexible interpretations that most other member states manage to run with. But MPs are not voluntarily going to take on more work – it’s hard enough to get them to reply to constituents’ letters or even make it to the lobby before the division bell stops ringing, so expecting them to read and understand complex EU missives and come up with alternatives without this being forced on them is somewhat unlikely.

Then, we might ask, why the need for one all-encompassing document anyway? The Treaty of Rome covered just six nations, yet each required opt-outs for varous clauses. The same has been the case with most subsequent treaties. Now that the Union has expanded to 25 members – including a number which have yet to recover from their decades of poverty and pillage under Soviet rule – how can anyone think that a “one size fits all” approach is the way forwards?

The coming of the Eurozone is the ultimate proof that the EU can function without everyone participating in exactly the same way. Why did the Convention which drew up this constitution not notice that?

If some EU states want to push ahead with political integration, and turn into the federal superstate of eurosceptic myth, why shouldn’t they? There’s no real practical reason why they have to take less keen nations along with them. So why can’t there be an “A-list” membership, with various affiliate members at lesser stages of integration scattered around the edges?

What is the problem of allowing subsects to membership if we’ve already got the Eurozone? Why can’t we set up something whereby if three or more nations want to band together with a different type of membership they can do so under the EU umbrella? That seems like a natural number – three BeNeLux countries, three Baltic states, the Scandinavian countries seem to agree with each other more often than not etc. etc.

That way everyone could be happy – sign up purely for those parts of the EU you want to – the only constant being the lack of trade barriers between all members. Then we could bring all the EEA and EFTA nations fully into the fold. Hell – we could even allow opt-outs in certain areas of trade and expand outside the continent if we wanted to. At the lowest level of membership it could simply be one step up from the WTO.

Instead, the attempt to impose uniformity on countries with so many little variants of interest, culture and history – yet nonetheless with a number of things in common and a number of shared interests – looks to be throwing the whole of the EU into crisis. Those countries who want to integrate further are being thwarted just as are those who feel integration may already have gone too far. With the current constitution, no one really wins – which is precisely why the opposition in France is largely on the left while in Britian it is largely on the right.

If you want a one size fits all EU, then the current constitution is the best compromise we’re likely to get. But is that really what’s best – either for the individual member states or for the EU itself?